Local Child Advocacy Center Prepares To See Increase In Abuse Reports As Students Head Back To Class


Tuesday, September 7th 2021, 8:51 am
By: Jordan Dafnis


OKLAHOMA CITY -

According to data from CDC, the number of reported child abuse cases dropped significantly during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean abuse is going away. This could be because educators report nearly 52% of child abuse cases in the United States, according to data from the non-profit Darkness to Light. 

The CARE Center is Oklahoma County’s only child advocacy center. Their goal is to protect kids and educate teachers and other childcare administrators on how to spot signs of abuse. 

“What we do is just it is vital. It is vital to the health of every single child in Oklahoma, and it is vital for adults to understand how to keep their children safe and how to keep their children that they love safe," said Shelby Lynch, the Director of Education at the CARE Center. 

Lynch said starting conversations with children you suspect could be facing abuse is one of the hardest things to do because of the intimate nature of the conversation. 

“Especially with teaching children how to protect their bodies it should be synonymous with how to dial 9-1-1 in case of emergency it should be synonymous with teaching a child how to escape a burning building. It is just part of these life skills that every child needs to know,” said Lynch. 

In addition to going into the community, the CARE Center offers online education programs for free. This can be essential for students who are not around many trusted adults in their day-to-day lives. 

"When they don't have access to that adult it is scary for that child, but they need to know that they have rights, and their bodies belong to them and even though they might not have access to that adult it doesn't mean they can't still tell someone what is happening to them," said Lynch. 

Lynch said it’s important to look for warning signs. Some are physical, like marks are bruising. Others are behavioral like sexual behavior outside of normal development and extreme fatigue. 

“Whenever we see that vibrance start to dull a little bit, that should be a sign for an adult just to have a conversation with that child,” said Lynch. 

The goal is to get students and adults comfortable with speaking up about abuse. 

"To be champions for their children and champion this conversation and be the main educator in the home and make sure that all kids know that they are safe with them, that they are loved and if someone breaks a boundary with them that is not acceptable." 

To learn more about the education programs available visit: 

https://carecenter-okc.org/