The number of children who have been affected by child abuse in Florida are staggering.
The Florida Department of Children and Families reports that there are over 12,000 children receiving in-home services, 13,056 children placed in kinship foster care placements, 12,478 children placed in licensed foster care placements and 899 children available for adoption in the state of Florida.
That’s a total of almost 40,000 children identified as suffering abuse and/or neglect in the state. For perspective, that would be the entire population of Atlantic City, New Jersey or enough people to fill the Amway Center in Orlando … twice.
Research over the past 25 years has come a long way in showing the impact of child abuse. Studies indicate there is a strong correlation between adverse childhood experiences and a number of physical, emotional and social problems, such as alcoholism and alcohol abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, health-related quality of life, illicit drug use, heart disease, liver disease, poor work performance, financial stress, risk for intimate partner violence, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, suicide attempts, unintended pregnancies, early initiation of smoking, early initiation of sexual activity, adolescent pregnancy, risk for sexual violence and poor academic achievement.
We know that children who suffer child abuse are significantly impacted in their social, emotional and physical development. We know that children’s brains are physically different after suffering the complex trauma of child abuse. We know that abused children need kindness, nurturing, safety and support.
There are a number of ways you can help. We are fortunate to have many organizations in Central Florida that provide meaningful support for children and families. Consider getting involved by reaching out and joining their efforts, whether that is supporting fundraising events or lending your time and talents.
By helping prevent child abuse, we could impact or even reduce the risk of struggles for our neighbors across their lifespan, potentially minimizing the impact emotionally, socially and fiscally in our communities. Even a small gesture of support can go a long way.
For more information about how you can help, visit DevereuxFL.org.
6 Ways You Can Help
1. Get involved. Support children and families by getting involved with organizations such as Devereux, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Community Based Care of Central Florida, the Heart of Florida United Way, faith-based organizations, and other community organizations.
2. Become a foster parent. Consider becoming a foster parent or spreading the word about the need for more foster families.
3. Volunteer or mentor. Devereux has a number of opportunities, such as mentoring at the elementary school-based support program or volunteering at the Family Support and Visitation Center.
4. Donate. Support local organizations with their fundraising and event planning initiatives.
5. Advocate. Inspire our elected officials to get involved. Advocate for support of child welfare and mental health funding with your legislative representatives and contact organizations to learn about their legislative priorities.
6. Protect children. Be aware of signs of abuse or neglect and report abuse when suspected by calling 1-800-96-ABUSE.