Roanoke Valley nonprofit fighting to protect children during Child Abuse Prevention Month

‘Unfortunately, child abuse is very prevalent in our community’ | In our viewing area, Roanoke City saw the highest: 2,937 cases

ROANOKE, Va. – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and one Roanoke Valley nonprofit is determined to make a difference in the lives of children.

About 1 in 4 children experience abuse or neglect, including in Southwest and Central Virginia.

“Unfortunately, child abuse is very prevalent in our community,” said Sammi Rader, the director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in the Roanoke Valley.

CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to look out for the best interests of children who’ve been abused or neglected and placed into foster care.

“Child abuse doesn’t always look like bruises. It can be a child not having eaten for three days at a time. It could be a child not having adult supervision for multiple hours at a time. It could be having a parent that is using substances and can’t adequately care for their child,” said Rader.

According to Virginia’s Department of Social Services, during fiscal year 2022, there were 35,917 reports of child abuse or neglect.

In our viewing area, Roanoke City saw the highest: 2,937 cases. Across the Commonwealth, 29 children died as a result of abuse or neglect.

“We’re getting a lot more reports,” said Janette Craghead, the director of child abuse prevention at the nonprofit Children’s Trust. “We don’t know if the numbers are higher because it’s happening more or if people are reporting more.”

Children’s Trust offers training and education for teachers, businesses and even families to break what’s sometimes a generational cycle of abuse.

“Overcome those obstacles and making sure that they don’t repeat the pattern,” said Craghead.

She says to look out for signs of abuse or neglect:

  • Obvious signs of physical abuse like bruises or burns
  • Changes in behavior (withdrawal, aggression)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Consistent hunger

And if you see something, don’t be afraid to speak up.

“I think if everybody does their part, a lot of children can be saved,” said Craghead.

The Virginia Child Abuse Hotline is: 1-800-552-7096.

For more detailed information about reports of child abuse and neglect across Virginia, click here.

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