The Mississippi Department of Human Services reports Harrison County recorded the most child abuse cases in 2013 with 742, with Jackson County second at 551. Both ranked ahead of Hinds County, the most populous county in the state, which reported 458.
April has been proclaimed National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which should hit home on the Coast as Harrison, Jackson, and Hancock Counties (Hancock reported 275 cases) combined account for 18 percent of all cases statewide.
The South Mississippi Child Abuse Prevention Center, often referred to as the C.A.P. Center, in Gulfport is a community-based program aimed at reducing child maltreatment. It serves children and non-offending caregivers, providing clients with individual referrals or other services.
“The service that this center provides certainly impacts our communities and the need has never been greater,” said Jim Allen, a member of the C.A.P. Center board of directors. “The C.A.P. Center works to reduce the risk factors of child abuse and advocates the support of those who have been victimized. And there is nothing more heartbreaking and unwarranted than abuse of a child.”
The mayors of Gulf Coast cities understand the need to tackle this problem as they will sign a proclamation supporting the C.A.P. Center and its advocacy services in this area.
“Child abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual…,even neglect,” said Franklin Williams, Executive Director. “And it is not limited to one county, one city or one country. Unfortunately it is everywhere, and could be taking place on your street.
“The C.A.P. Center takes a two-prong approach in combating this growing problem: Prevention and advocacy. We address both pre-abuse situations by pairing trained volunteers with at-risk parents, and the post-event situation by providing advocacy services. These can range from forensic interviews that spare the child additional trauma, to emotional support to working with a variety of agencies to best benefit the child.”
The C.A.P. Center was formed in 1988 and for the last 25 years has worked to prevent child abuse by improving the quality of life for all children and their families in South Mississippi. The center is located on 17th Street in Gulfport and offers full service to Harrison and Jackson counties, as well as courtesy services for Hancock, Stone, George, and many others.