University of Central Oklahoma advocates the use of social media to help spread the word about preventing child abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Meaningful Connections.” Each year, the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies raises awareness by placing blue ribbons and child abuse statistics along a busy sidewalk in front of its building.
College communications coordinator Stephanie Turner said for the first time participants created a social media plan for the week.
Twitter allowed for a creative and interesting way to inform followers about handling stress, helping children heal from trauma or traumatic events, supporting military families and helping families make healthy habits.
Turner said college personnel believe the chosen topics are relevant and useful for its account followers, especially educators, parents, students, educational institutions and organizations — anyone who may work with children.
“You never know when someone may read the information, learn from it or simply be reminded of something they already know and put it into action,” Turner said.
Personnel also shared resources provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Several of the college’s tweets supporting the awareness effort were retweeted or “favorited,” Turner said.
Kaye Sears, a family life education professor and chair of UCO’s Human Environmental Sciences department, said child abuse prevention is a passion of college faculty who want to make a difference and raise awareness.
Since 2008, students in child development and other child and family related human environmental science classes have decorated a tree with blue ribbons to call attention to the problem, Sears said.
“It is a passion of the faculty to make a difference in Oklahoma’s children and families and to make our students aware of this need in our state,” said Sears, who spoke about the issue earlier this week at the state Capitol.
Sears said college leaders want each person who completes its degree program to make a difference by educating others and providing intervention when possible.
In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 65,000 families were reported to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for allegations of child abuse and neglect; abuse and neglect were substantiated in nearly 10,000 cases, according to the Oklahoma State Plan for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect for Fiscal Years 2014-18.
Experts say this does not measure the full extent of the problem. All children who are maltreated do not always come into the child protective system. And maltreatment can have a profound effect on a child’s health and development, and can lead to physical and mental impairments.
Furthermore, studies have linked child maltreatment with poor cognitive and educational development, physical aggression, adolescent pregnancy, substance abuse, juvenile or adult criminal behavior and later impairments in adult physical health.
From 2009-12 there has been a 17.2 percent decrease in the number of investigations and/or assessments, according to the state plan. However, substantiated findings have increased from 16 percent to 22 percent.
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