Our Role in Keeping Kids Safe Print
Written by Jenny Harbin   
Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00


In Charlotte-Mecklenburg County our Department of Social Services (DSS) receives an average of 1100 reports of child abuse and neglect each month. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. As a community we are all responsible for the safety and well being of the children in it.

It is a bit cliché, but now that I am a mom I see the world very differently. I am moved to do more than a casual bystander when I hear a story in the news of a child being abused or neglected. I boldly think, if it was someone I knew or a neighbor of mine I would not have stood by and let it happen.

The more aware we are of what child abuse and neglect are the better job we can do as a community to prevent it. According to DSS the majority of reports are of neglect – neglect kills more often than abuse.

Last year in our area there was a heartbreaking story in the news about young children who died in a house fire. The shocking part was there was no adult home at the time. That is an example of how neglect can be deadly.

After the story came out many people criticized DSS for not doing more. But DSS cannot do it alone. They count on their many community partners including police, health workers and educators. DSS also depends on individual members of the community, each one of us plays a role in protecting the children of our community.

What is My Role in Keeping Kids Safe?

Report Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect

If you see the signs of abuse or neglect, call the DSS 24-Hour Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 704-336-CARE (2273). If you aren’t sure if it is abuse or neglect, leave it to the trained professionals to investigate.

It is important to know that one call may not be enough. After your report you may not feel that DSS handled it the way you thought they should. If a child is not in clear danger it is the priority of DSS to keep the family together. First steps may be counseling and/or family services. It is important that you call EVERY time you see abusive or neglectful behavior even for the same person. DSS must establish a repeat behavior and that the first report was not a one-time event.

Here are some common concerns people have when faced with reporting child abuse:

  • It’s none of my business.
    Abuse and neglect has lifelong effects on a child. Most children can’t speak up for themselves. Your phone call could be the first step in breaking the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if they take the child away?
    DSS does not automatically remove a child from the home. The priority of DSS is to keep children in the home unless the child is clearly in danger. Often times DSS provides parenting classes and supportive services to the family.
  • They will know it was me who called.
    All phone calls are anonymous.
  • Will my call even make a difference?
    Your phone call may allow DSS to see a pattern. Your phone call may identify child abuse in a child that may have slipped through the cracks.

Preventing Child Abuse

Each of us can do several things to prevent child abuse.

  1. Spread Awareness.
  2. Recognize Abuse. There is physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The most common abuse is neglect. Neglect is any serious disregard for a child’s supervision, care or discipline. Click here for a full list of signs of abuse & neglect.
  3. Teach Children their Rights. Help children understand that they are special and have the right to be safe.
  4. Support Prevention Programs. Stop abuse before it occurs. Support family counseling or home visiting programs that provide assistance to newborns and their parents.
  5. Invest in Kids. Especially in this tight economy…Make sure our local lawmakers know that your priority is to support legislation that will protect our children.
  6. Reach Out. Be a friend to a parent you know. If parenting seems to be a struggle, offer to babysit. Be a friend to a child, ask them about their day, listen to them. Give used clothes & furniture to another family, this can help relieve financial burdens of parents.


To learn more tips on recognizing and preventing child abuse and to learn about local volunteer opportunities visit www.thechildrensalliance.org.


The Children’s Alliance is a collaborative of 40 diverse non-profit agencies in Mecklenburg County. We share a common goal to make sure all children in our community receive the best opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. Learn more about our members at www.thechildrensalliance.org.