CPS Working Through Crisis
Monroe County’s Department of Human Services and, specifically Child Protective Services, is at work during this coronavirus crisis, working to keep our children safe. If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected by their parent or care giver, please read more about making a report at our website here.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
“Have You Seen this Child?”
We’re all too familiar with the pleading headline accompanying photos of missing children on milk cartons, TV ads, billboards, and social media. But how much do we really know about the vital work being done by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to protect our children? And more importantly, how can we help in their mission?
The mission of NCMEC is actually threefold: to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent future child victimization. A staggering 430,000 missing children reports are filed nationally with law enforcement every year. In 2018, 18 million reports of child sexual exploitation were made through NCMEC’s national CyberTipline. Sadly, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys have been sexually abused. Look around your neighborhoods, your classrooms, do the math. There are vulnerable children out there who need help.
Partners in Crime
NCMEC is a private, non-profit based primarily in Alexandria, VA, with regional offices in New York, Texas, Florida and California. Rochester is the largest of the locations across NY state. Ed Suk is the Executive Director of the NCMEC New York region.
Suk said that while many children go missing, NCMEC has an astonishing 98% recovery rate. But he feels that is still not enough, lamenting that “the 2% gnaws at us all the time.” He attributes the high success rate to the hard work of their tireless staff, case managers, analysts, and social service and law enforcement partners not only locally, but across the state and nation.
With 30 full-time staff people and a $1.1 million dollar annual operating budget for the region, NCMEC’s Rochester office considers its partners crucial in providing “a whole host of services nationally and across the world.” Suk says that they can’t reduce child sexual exploitation and victimization if limited by geographic boundaries as, “The online world has no physical boundaries.”
We can do our part by using NCMEC’s CyberTipline to report anything that might interfere with a child’s safety—from suspected risk for abduction or abuse, to suspicious online activity. Suk says, “You never know when a tip could result in rescuing one child or a dozen children.”
What Can I Do? (Education and Prevention)
NCMEC has tremendous safety information that is free and easy to incorporate into daily instruction, à la carte. The lessons, conversation starters, and downloadable programs are easy to use and age specific/age appropriate for elementary, middle and high school students. (See sidebar for links to programs for detailed information.)
Suk understands that teachers have enough on their plates meeting basic core requirements without adding in additional instruction. In response, NCMEC offers to join in with health programs and put resources into the hands of technology teachers. They can even kick it all off by coming into schools and presenting to an auditorium full of kids.
NCMEC offers all of these tools and services for free in the name of education and prevention, to reinforce safety messages in school and online. Suk is proud that they are able to take national resources and “bring them home to Rochester.”
NCMEC’s education and prevention programs:
KidSmartz Personal Safety Program
NetSmartz Online Safety Program
Safety Central App
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month:
Preventing child abuse or neglect before it happens.
Helping parents cope with their stressors can reduce the chances that child abuse and neglect will occur. Mandated reporters have a responsibility to counsel parents and call in other community resources for primary prevention. The following summarizes the needs of parents and how you can provide counseling as well as make referrals to meet these needs:
Main database for information and community resources: In Monroe County, Llifeline is an up-to-date database of information and referral services that can help families. For information about the specific agencies and telephone numbers for community services, dial 211 or visit their web site at http://www.211lifeline.org/
1. Parents need breaks from their kids: If parents perceive their children as “difficult” for any reason, they need breaks even more. You can help a parent develop a list of babysitters, friends, relatives, etc. who are willing to come by when the parent needs to get away. Some communities have a crisis nursery or drop-in child care facilities, Big Brother, Big Sister Agencies, or other options for parents when they need a “time out” from their children.
Types of Services: Babysitter directories, drop-in child care centers, recreation centers, YWCA/YMCA, church groups, friends, or relatives.
2. Parents need social support: All parents need someone to talk to who can offer them some emotional support. You can help a parent identify a trusted friend or relative who is a good listener. Help lines or hotlines for parents can offer assistance as well. Many communities have a Parents Anonymous group that provides a private, informal atmosphere for parents to meet with others who share their challenges. Sometimes, family or individual counseling is helpful. Types of Services: Seek support from friends or relatives, support groups, recreation centers, community-based organizations, neighborhood wellness centers, church groups, help lines, or hotlines.
3. Parents need to learn what to expect of children at each developmental stage: Many parents have unrealistic expectations that make them believe that their children’s behavior is worse than others. All parents feel responsible for their children’s behavior, and all parents feel that what their kids do and don’t do reflects on them as parents. You can help a parent find classes and workshops about how children grow up and why they act the way that they do at different ages. Types of Services: Seek support from a friend or relative, or look for parenting classes or workshops given by community-based organizations, neighborhood wellness centers, church groups, parent aides, or homemaker services.
4. Parents need help to sort out concepts of discipline and punishment for their child: Many parents discipline their children the same way that their parents disciplined them. They may not have thought or talked about the differences between discipline and punishment. They may not know how to discipline without hitting or screaming at their child. You can help by reinforcing the parent’s belief that children need discipline, but that there are many kinds of effective discipline. You can provide some simple reading materials and tell them about parenting classes or other sources of community information about child discipline. Types of Services: Seek support from a friend or relative, community-based organizations, neighborhood wellness centers, or church groups.
5. Parents sometimes need help with food, clothing, housing, and other essentials: Circumstances can occur suddenly and unexpectedly that cause a family to have difficulty providing the basics for their children. You can help by knowing about community resources for safe housing, food, clothing, and other assistance. You can emphasize that many families have trouble making ends meet at one time or another, and that by seeking help, these parents are caring for their family and continuing to be good parents. You can provide referrals to appropriate community agencies and follow up to see if the services were helpful. Types of Services: Seek support from a friend or relative, food cupboards, clothing storehouses, emergency housing facilities, community-based organizations, neighborhood wellness centers, church groups, parent aides, or Department of Human and Health Services.
6. Parents need professional services for children who are not matching their normal developmental stages: Sometimes, a child can display behavior that is difficult for parents to handle, because there is a physical, emotional, or other developmental problem. The problem may not be diagnosed, and the parents may be blaming themselves for the behavior and feeling bad about their ability to be good parents. You can help by encouraging a parent to talk to the child’s doctor about the difficult behavior and ask for an evaluation. You can also encourage a parent to talk to the child’s teacher about how the child behaves in the classroom. Types of Services: Consultation with pediatrician and specialists, developmental evaluation in school, or Maternal-Child Division of the Health Department.
7. Parents sometimes need professional services themselves: Chronic illness, mental health problems, and substance use (including alcohol abuse) can increase the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. You can help a parent get an assessment and treatment for these conditions. Counseling a parent about the impact of their problem on the child can be a motivator to help a parent seek treatment. Types of Services: Health care providers, health care centers, drug and alcohol treatment facilities, hospital emergency rooms, County Mental Health Services, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or counseling services for the parent/family.
8. Parents sometimes need help with Domestic Violence.: Children who witness their parents domestic violence can experience emotional trauma, even if they themselves are not physically harmed. Many parents who stay in a situation in which they are experiencing domestic violence believe that they are protecting their children as long as the children are not being hit. You can help by counseling a parent about the impact of witnessing violence on the child. This may be a motivator for the parent to seek the help of a women’s shelter or other intervention. You should also always provide a phone number for the local domestic violence Hotline which can lead to an immediate shelter placement to protect the parent and children. Types of Services: Women’s shelters, DV hotline, calling the police after an injury, obtaining a court order of protection, health care providers, health care centers, hospital emergency rooms, County Mental Health Services, legal services, seeking shelter with a friend or relative, or counseling services for the parent/family.
View all previous newsletters in the archive.