A group of Tulsa area nonprofit agencies has formed a new coalition to educate the community about ways to identify and report child abuse that may increase in the wake of social distancing.
Members of the coalition include Child Abuse Network, Family & Children’s Services, the Parent Child Center of Tulsa and the Tulsa Area United Way. They have launched the new awareness campaign under the theme of Look Out, Reach Out.
Child welfare experts with the coalition say during periods of social distancing, many children are at higher levels of risk than normal. Families are under a great deal of stress and can take out their frustrations on children, they say. Further, schools and daycares are the most common places to identify and report potential child abuse, but those institutions are temporarily closed as a result of COVID-19.
“Our community is experiencing an unprecedented health and economic crisis that is burdening families and caregivers with multiple layers of stress,” said Alison Anthony, President and CEO of Tulsa Area United Way. “With so many risk factors for child abuse sharply increasing, it’s important for the entire community to come together and look out for our children. We are so proud to join together with Child Abuse Network, Parent Child Center and Family and Children’s Services to raise awareness and help protect our children from abuse.”
Because these at-risk children are more hidden from view than normal, the coalition is urging the community to reach out to any families that might be at risk. They recommend communicating by video calls as much as possible and to specifically ask to talk with the children of a household.
Experts also say during periods of social distancing, a nontraditional group of people might have the best chance to spot signs of abuse. This includes grocery store clerks, food delivery personnel, and anyone who might go to a home such as home repair workers and contractors or utility technicians.
Although social distancing restrictions will begin to slowly lift, it’s important to remember schools have not yet begun normal classroom instruction, coalition members say.
The coalition says any concerns over child safety can be reported anonymously to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. They say proof is not necessary to report a concern.
The Look Out, Reach Out team advises all families to keep the following tips in mind during this time:
- Have a safety plan in mind and act on it before stress becomes overwhelming.
- Keep an eye on any individuals and families who are struggling.
- Try to visually see the child or children in any way possible.
- If the stress is difficult, call the COPES emotional support line at 981-744-4800.
About Child Abuse Network
The Child Abuse Network began as a project in 1986 with the Junior League of Tulsa before becoming an official organization in 1988. It provides collaborative services through the Children’s Advocacy Center where a multi-disciplinary team approach to child abuse investigations is employed. By offering all the investigative services under one roof with the child’s welfare and emotional well-being as the focus, CAN helps to reduce the trauma for children and their families involved in child abuse investigations. For these children, CAN is a safe place to come, be heard and be helped. In fiscal year, 2019, CAN provided services for nearly 1,600 children. Last year, there were 2,685 substantiated child abuse cases in Tulsa County.
About Family & Children’s Services
Family & Children’s Services, the largest behavioral health nonprofit organization in Oklahoma, works to heal hurting and abused children, strengthen families, and provide hope and path to recovery for those dealing with serious mental illness and addiction. For nearly a century, F&CS has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem too overwhelming to handle alone. Programs are offered through a network of nine convenient office locations and co-locations with numerous community partners throughout the Tulsa metro area. F&CS serves more than one in six Tulsans year. F&CS gives Tulsans hope, and in the process, make our community a better place for all.
About the Parent Child Center of Tulsa
The work of The Parent Child Center of Tulsa began in 1972. The current agency structure was launched May 1, 1990, merging two smaller United Way agencies: Child Abuse Prevention Services and At Risk Parent Child Program. Marking its 30th year of service this week, The Parent Child Center’s mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect through education, treatment and advocacy. Last year, more than 76,000 children and adults were impacted by The Parent Child Center’s prevention efforts through Community Outreach to schools, summer camps and civic organizations, Family Support Services staff visits to homes of children at risk for abuse and neglect, training caregivers in nurturing parenting skills, and in Clinical Services, therapists provide child and adult therapy to those for whom some degree of abuse and neglect has already occurred in their family, with the goal of preventing future incidents of child maltreatment.
About Tulsa Area United Way
Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW) is a nonprofit organization in the six-county area funding 59 partner agencies whose critical services deliver the three building blocks to a better life: education, financial stability and health/safety. Since 1924, TAUW has raised and invested over $825 million to assist people in need in Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Rogers, Wagoner and Tulsa counties. All contributions to the TAUW are invested locally, and governance is maintained by a highly dedicated Board of Directors. The 2020 Board Chair is Kirk Hays, President and CEO of Arvest Bank, Tulsa. www.tauw.org