More than 100 people turned out for the Crawford County Division of Children and Family Services’ fourth annual Walk to End Child Abuse in Van Buren on Wednesday.
The noon walk was part of an effort to raise awareness about the frequency of child abuse and neglect in Crawford County, said event organizer Debbie Pippin, Crawford County Division of Children and Family Services supervisor.
State Rep. Charlotte Douglas spoke at the conclusion of the walk, which began at the Crawford County Courthouse at 300 Main St. and ended at Train Depot Park.
Douglas said there are about 800 children in Crawford and Sebastian counties that need foster care, but no homes are available.
"There is no one to blame in this crisis," Douglas said. "We do not want to point fingers, we do not want to shout problems, we want to be the solution."
After noting that child neglect is more reported and a more urgent problem than child abuse, Douglas suggested a task force of law enforcement, religious and community leaders to tackle the problem locally.
"Parents need some support," Douglas said. "Wouldn’t it be amazing if we in this county considered our challenge with these children our mission field?"
While Douglas said the state passed five pages of legislative changes to improve the foster system and remove obstacles to foster care, the problem would not be solved legislatively.
"Together, we can raise children that won’t have to recover from their childhood," Douglas said, becoming emotional. "That is egregious. Instead, we must get everyone at the table to offer solutions and to bring up a new generation that is full of givers and dreamers."
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the walk was slated as part of the Million March Against Child Abuse. Various groups participating in the walk wore blue and carried to show support for the efforts.
Throughout April, CCDCFS will sponsor events to call attention to the importance of preventing all forms of child maltreatment, as well as educating the public, Pippin said.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services 2014 Statistical Report, there were 32,928 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Arkansas in 2014, with 9,675 cases confirmed.
In 2014, 7,513 children were in Arkansas foster care services, 24,603 in protective services and 912 children in supportive services.
CCDCFS defines neglect as a failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Douglas said that neglect could be educational, physical or medical.
"When the parents could do better, they are not," Douglas said.
Emotional abuse include constant criticism, threats or rejection, as well as withholding love, support or guidance.
Children are defined as physically abused if they sustain an injury when physically attacked, while sexual abuse includes anything from fondling a child’s genitals to exploitation through prostitution.
Warning signs that a child might be abused or neglected include the child being nervous around adults, aggressive toward adults or other children, inability to stay awake or concentrate, sudden changes in personality or activities, acting out sexually or showing interest in sex in an age inappropriate way and frequent or unexplained bruises or injuries.
Arkansas ranks no. 44 in the nation for overall child well-being, according to Kids Count Data Center.
To report suspected child abuse, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 482-5964.