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WV Child Neglect, Abuse Falls by One-Third in Four Years

May 24, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The numbers of children abused or neglected in West Virginia fell by 35 percent from 2005 through 2008, according to federal statistics. However, that time period does not include most of the current recession, and experts say child maltreatment usually goes up during economic stress.

Children's advocates say the state is doing the right thing by investing in prevention. Rhonda Stubbs is one of them. The executive director of A Child's Place CASA, which serves Brooke and Hancock counties, she says her organization tries to help people with what she calls the "roller-coaster ride" of raising kids.

"We offer programs so that parents aren't overwhelmed. So they know that, for example, potty training's a very difficult period of time - it's frustrating - but that's typical, that's normal and it's going to be okay, it's going to improve."

One activity CASA holds every year is a baby-safety shower. It's designed to provide support and information for parents, Stubbs says, and the word is getting around.

"A young woman called to RSVP to come to the shower. She said she went last year, and then she called four of her friends who were expecting or were new moms and invited them to come."

Stubbs says a key to CASA's success is listening to parents, which builds a connection to offer moms and dads the kinds of help they actually need.

"It's all about parental resilience. Trying to help parents feel that they have the support and the tools necessary to be good parents; offering support in concrete times, when a parent is suffering. Don't offer them things that you think they need - ask them what they need."

Stubbs and other children's advocates from around the state met in Hampshire County last week to discuss the statistics.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV