April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, is reminder of community responsibility

Preventing child abuse is a community responsibility that needs involvement from all Michiganders, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says.

 During April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month, MDHHS is reminding people that they can help protect children from abuse and neglect. “Michigan’s children can be protected through the power of one person, one community, one dollar or one action,” said Michael Foley, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund, a nonprofit within MDHHS to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed this month as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Michigan, making it the 32nd year that April has had that official designation.

Michigan had 23,813 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2015.

Residents can prevent abuse by working as a community to create healthy environments for raising children, Foley said. They can also promote preventive factors to strengthen families – including family resiliency, social support systems, nurturing and attachment and knowledge of parenting and child development. Or they can donate money to prevention efforts and report suspected abuse or neglect using an anonymous state hotline that is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The toll-free number in Michigan is 1-855-444-3911. The hotline is available to everyone in Michigan, including the general public and mandatory reporters such as teachers and health professionals who are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

 “Tips from the public are crucial in identifying situations in which children are being harmed or are at risk,” said Steve Yager, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “Once we are alerted, we can take action to provide services to families to keep them together safely or, when necessary, petition courts to remove children from unsafe homes.”

 For more information on the Children’s Trust Fund, including how to donate online or on your Michigan tax form, visit www.michigan.gov/PreventChildAbuse.

Attorney General Bill Schuette also recognized Child Abuse Prevention Month, and noted, “Our children are our most precious resource, and when they are abused and neglected, we in law enforcement have a duty to protect them.’

In 2015 the State of Michigan received 284 complaints that a child may have died  as a result of possible abuse and/or neglect, of which 74 were substantiated. National child abuse and neglect data for 2014 indicated that the number of children abused and neglected increased by 3 percent, and approximately 70 percent of the child abuse cases involve children under 3. In 80 percent of cases, parents were the perpetrators. In cases of human trafficking, 40 percent of cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.

The AG’s Children and Youth Services Division provides legal advice and representation to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in litigation and appellate work involving child abuse and neglect cases in Wayne County.

Last year the division handled 1,228 petitions requesting court intervention for 2,189 victims of abuse and neglect.  The division handled 10,003 court hearings regarding these children and conducted 1,587 trials on their behalf.  In addition, 100 responsive pleadings were filed on behalf of children in Wayne County with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The Michigan Child Protection Law requires certain people, including teachers, health care professionals and law enforcement, to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to Children's Protective Services.

Cases of abuse or neglect should be reported to local law enforcement or Michigan Department of Health and Human Services by calling 855-444-3911.