SALISBURY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A new report presented to Rowan County commissioners Monday revealed just how prevalent child abuse and neglect is in the county.
According to members of the Rowan County Community Child Protection Team, the group helped more children and families in 2022 than any other year in its 20-year history.
Shawn Edman, a member of the CCPT and the executive director of the Terrie Hess Child Advocacy Center, told commissioners his center has already provided 650 therapy sessions to child victims of physical and sexual abuse in the first quarter of this year.
“Many people ask me, why do people abuse children?” said Edman. “There are a multitude of reasons, but one that is common in our area is economic insecurity.”
Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris reported drug use also plays a major role. She said about 10 percent of infants in the county are born into or affected by substance abuse disorder.
“We had 814 births in 2022,” Harris said. “So, just putting that into perspective, that’s around 80 new souls in our community being affected by withdrawal symptoms just as they were born.”
According to the CCPT’s report, the county experienced 20 child abuse and neglect-related deaths in 2022. The most common cause was prenatal/perinatal conditions.
Edman says the Child Advocacy Center is working on three new initiatives to try to combat the growing issue.
The first is a program called W5, which teaches people when and how to report suspected child abuse.
The second is Parent Child Interaction Therapy, a technique that helps parents and children learn to manage emotional, social and behavioral issues.
Finally, the CAC is helping with a statewide effort to enact a 211 hotline specifically for child abuse reporting.
“The crimes committed against our children are unimaginable, and it is our duty to help these innocent lives to the best of our abilities and means,” said Edman.