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Editorial: DSS raises child abuse awareness

The Jasper County Department of Social Services hosted an Easter egg hunt at Turpin Park in Ridgeland last Friday, but the event was much more than hunting for eggs, munching on popcorn and having fun in a bounce house.

The idea was to have fun, but it was also to raise awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention Month and help the community learn about the many agencies that aim to keep children safe.

“The Department of Social Services has several community partners, branching from doctor’s offices to early intervention specialists,” said Janikqua Reed, Jasper DSS Human Services Specialist. “We wanted to bring these individuals together to show they all work together to prevent child abuse and help with the betterment of children.”

Reed, who coordinated the event, believes the community might not realize how many organizations are connected to the DSS and how one service can refer families to other services. She said a major goal was to make people aware of the services available. Which is why the event was a great opportunity to bring everybody together.

After the children raced around the park grabbing eggs, their families were invited to visit with the groups that participated, including Jasper County First Steps, Lowcountry Kids Enrichment Center, Children’s Trust, Healthy Steps, All Children’s Pediatrics, Jasper County Boys &Girls Club, Ridgeland-Hardeeville High, Omar Temple No. 21 Shriners and Wilkey Creations.

There was a nice crowd when we arrived and it was apparent the children were ready to have fun, but it was also clear that Reed and Jasper’s DSS were sincere about bringing the agencies together.

“Let’s all work together to prevent and stop child abuse,” Reed told the crowd, which numbered more than 100.

According to the S.C. Department of Social Services, from June 2015 to June 2016, there were 43,924 reports of child abuse and neglect in the state. About 25,000 child protective services cases were investigated, and abuse was found in more than 10,000 of those cases. In 2013, 25 children in South Carolina died as a result of abuse or neglect, according to the Child Welfare League of America.

Reed said awareness is crucial. “I don’t think people know how often it happens,” she said.

Counseling and tutoring services were offered at last week’s event, and the Ridgeland Fire Department, Jasper County Fire-Rescue and S.C. Highway Patrol offered instructions on how to properly install a car seat. Reed said car-seat safety is often misunderstood.

“A lot of people don’t know car safety seats expire,” she said. “Regulations change.”

The event also served to help spread the word about Friday’s Child Abuse Prevention Month walk through downtown Ridgeland, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Jasper DSS office. Reed encourages the community to participate.

We applaud Jasper’s DSS for raising awareness and bringing the agencies together for the community’s benefit.

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