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What southwest Missouri nonprofits are doing to prevent child abuse and neglect -- and what you can do, too

The southwest Missouri chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse president plants a blue pinwheel at the CAN Collaborative GoBlue event at the Springfield Art Museum on April 12, 2023.
Meghan McKinney/KSMU
The southwest Missouri chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse president plants a blue pinwheel at the CAN Collaborative GoBlue event at the Springfield Art Museum on April 12, 2023.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. According to Springfield’s Community Focus Reports, child abuse and neglect have been red flagged multiple times over the past decade.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Laura Farmer is chair of the Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative in Springfield (CAN Collaborative), a group of approximately 40 area nonprofits that prevent or respond to child abuse or neglect. She said home visits are a crucial piece in addressing the problem.

“It's really important that we get into these homes and really help families get the support that they need, learn new positive parenting practices, learn how to manage their stress," said Farmer., "s well as, maybe, address some substance abuse issues, mental health issues, whatever may be present in that family.”

There are over six hundred kids in foster care in Greene County, according to Farmer.. She said foster care is a last resort and is only used to take children out of dangerous situations.

“Our goal is really to keep families intact and provide that support that they need so that they can stay together," said Farmer.

Adults who are around children, such as teachers, are vital to identifying child abuse and neglect, she said.

The director of Community Collaboratives at the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Sarah Osmer, said, "it’s on all of us to be really listening and paying attention to the kids in our lives and in our community and our families and be willing to step if there is something that we are concerned about or something doesn’t seem right.”

Kat Dull is the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center, which works in 16 counties to identify and prosecute child abuse and help young victims heal. Dull said the community needs to have opportunities for kids to speak up about abuse.

“Our system so often requires our kids to tell. For us to move forward and protect them, they have to share what they’ve experienced and it’s so abnormal for them to have to do that," said Dull. "There are so many blocks and barriers that they have to get through in order to be able to make those statements.”

Farmer said everyone can make a difference in preventing child abuse and neglect — from donating tangible items to nonprofits to becoming foster parents.

Report suspected child abuse or neglect online at the Missouri Department of Social Services website or call the MDSS Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-800-392-3738.

Meghan McKinney is an undergraduate journalism student at Missouri State University. She works as a news reporter and announcer for KSMU. Her passions, other than journalism, are psychology, music, sign languages and dancing. She also runs a local music page on Facebook called "SGF Playlist."