Throughout the month of April, the Daily Guide will be featuring profiles of various community resources and people who are making a difference in the fight against child abuse and neglect.

Blue pinwheels signifying hope and bright futures will mark the month of April as child advocacy agencies and advocates kick off education campaigns across the country to raise awareness about child abuse and prevention.

April was first declared Child Abuse Prevention Month by presidential proclamation in 1983. Since then, April has been a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse.  

Kids’ Harbor in St. Robert and Osage Beach, is one of those agencies, working  within the surrounding communities assisting victims and their families. The agency serves 10 counties, including Pulaski, Phelps, Laclede, Dent, Hickory, Camden, Miller, Morgan, Texas and Maries.

Their mission is to provide coordinated response, healing and prevention of child abuse. 

Kids’ Harbor assists victims of child abuse and their non-offending family members as they make their way through the difficult and often frightening process of a child abuse investigation.

In 2017, in the counties served by Kids’ Harbor,  698 new referrals for children in need of services due to reports of abuse or trauma were taken. An increase of over 14 percent from the number of new referrals received in 2016.

Of those referrals, 81 were in Phelps County. Unlike some other areas, Phelps County is seeing a slight decrease in referrals. In 2015, 93 referrals were taken. In 2016 referrals decreased slightly down to 70. Children are often scared to report abuse and it is often someone they know and trust that are the abusers.

Kids’ Harbor Director Cara Gerdiman said disclosure is a process. 

“It often takes children six months or more-if they ever speak up-to report abuse. Why? Because the abuser is often someone they know, love, and trust. They just want the abuse to stop.  False reports are rare,” Gerdiman said. “The statistic for this is between 2-10% of reports are actually found to be false. Children are more likely to lie and say nothing happened when the abuse is happening.”

Children are often taught stranger danger and warned about strangers. Research indicates in more than 90% of cases, the alleged perpetrator is someone the child knows.   

“Children look to adults to keep them safe. It is our responsibility, as adults, to protect children. If you see something suspicious, say something. On average, children tell four adults prior to someone taking action,” Gerdiman said. “ You wouldn’t hesitate to report an assault, someone breaking into a home, or someone stealing. Children deserve better. They are our future and we, as adults, are responsible for protecting them. “ 

Kids’ Harbor services are provided to children, free of charge, ages, 0-18, referred by Children’s Division of Missouri Department of Social Services, Juvenile authorities, and /or Law Enforcement.  Most referrals involve allegations of sexual abuse but also include physical and emotional abuse as well as physical and medical neglect, witnesses to violence and drug endangered children.  Services are designed to begin at the onset of the investigation.  Early intervention and support has been shown to lessen the traumatic consequences that a child may experience during the criminal justice process. 

For more information or to get involved call the St. Robert office at 573-336-8634 or email heather@kharbor.org 

To report suspected abuse or neglect:

1-800-392-3738