At LSF, we whole heartedly believe children are one of our greatest gifts. Children are the future of our world and to ensure they have a successful, opportune future, we must work to protect them. Childhood should be a precious and irreplaceable time, full of wonder, imagination, and innocence. Yet, for many children, this time is cut short by abuse, neglect, or violence. It is up to us all to ensure that every child has the chance to experience the joy and wonder of childhood, and to grow up into healthy, happy, and productive adults.
Child abuse is a harsh reality that affects countless children across the United States. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused or neglected each year in the U.S. In the state of Florida alone, there were 169,000 reports of child abuse in 2020, with over 24,000 confirmed cases of abuse. These statistics are alarming and highlight the urgent need for organizations and individuals to take action to prevent child abuse and protect vulnerable children.
April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month, but our investment in putting an end to child abuse in our area, in our state and in the world, expands well past the month of April. Lisa Mayrose, Vice President of Operations at LSF, shared more with us about the work being done in our child welfare programs and services to help prevent and stop child abuse head on.
“Often time there is an assumption when it comes to child welfare, that the children or their families are bad people in some way. These are people who have experienced unresolved trauma and need some extra support,” said Lisa Mayrose. “Our variety of child welfare-based programs ranging from diversion and group homes to foster care, adoption and counseling helps to ensure that these families get the help they need so that we can prevent initial or future child abuse before it becomes an issue in these homes.”
We compiled a list of the five services LSF, Lisa Mayrose and her whole team work to facilitate and explained how exactly these programs are working to prevent and end child abuse.
- Family Preservation Services
LSF offers family preservation services that help families stay together and avoid the need for foster care or adoption. This program offers intensive in-home services such as counseling, parenting classes, and assistance with basic needs like food and housing. By providing families with the resources they need, LSF can help reduce the stress and challenges that can lead to child abuse.
- Foster Care and Adoption
For children who are unable to live with their birth families, LSF offers foster care and adoption services. These programs provide children with a safe and loving home environment until they can safely return to their own homes or seek another permanent solution. LSF works closely with foster and adoptive families to ensure that they have the support and resources they need to provide the best possible care for the children in out of home care.
- Youth Shelters
LSF operates no reject/no eject group homes and youth shelters that provide a safe place for children and teens who are at risk of abuse or neglect. These shelters offer counseling, educational support, and other services that help children and teens cope with the challenges they face. By providing a safe and supportive environment, LSF can work with youth and their families to help prevent child abuse and promote healthy development for children and teens in need.
- Behavioral Health Services
LSF offers behavioral health services that help children and families cope with mental health challenges. These services include counseling, therapy, and other interventions that can help prevent child abuse. By addressing the trauma that our children have experienced, often leading to behavioral health challenges, LSF can help families develop healthy coping strategies and build strong, supportive relationships.
- Community Education and Awareness
Finally, LSF works to raise awareness about child abuse and educate the community about the signs and symptoms of abuse. By increasing awareness, LSF can help prevent child abuse before it occurs. LSF also provides resources and support to individuals and families who have been affected by abuse, helping them heal and rebuild their lives. To help prevent these issues from occurring, we work with programs outside of the child welfare world, like Head Start, to provide families with the tools they need to be excellent parents.
Protecting children is not just a moral imperative, it is a legal and ethical obligation. We must take action to prevent child abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and to hold accountable those who harm children.
Lisa Mayrose said, “Preventing child abuse requires a continuous effort and unwavering commitment, and child welfare programs play a vital role in this mission. Every child deserves to feel safe, loved, and protected, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that their rights are upheld, and their voices are heard. This is a responsibility we do not take lightly at LSF. Our teams on the front lines demonstrate that passion and commitment every day, often sacrificing their own personal lives to promote excellent outcomes for the children and families we serve.”
Our largest effort to continue to act and be a force for change in preventing child abuse, is in the way we continue to grow our expertise and increase our footprint within the child welfare sphere. Over the last four years, LSF has grown exponentially in providing critical services to our families and children impacted by abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. LSF now offers diversion services in Pinellas County, our CINS/FINS shelters and community counseling in the Northwest, Southwest, and Southeast, our no reject/no eject group homes in Palm Beach, our Refugee Services programs located throughout the state including our Dream Center which cares for youth until they can be reunited with their families, our seven Family Resource Centers that provide a comprehensive array of family services in Hillsborough County, and lastly, our child welfare case management organizations (CMOs) which we are now providing in the following judicial Circuits:
Circuit 20 – Southwest CMO, Circuit 12 – Manatee County CMO, Circuit 6 – Pinellas County CMO, Circuit 10 – Polk County CMO, Circuits 3 & 8 – Gilchrist, Levy, Dixie, and Columbia Counties, Circuit 13 – Hillsborough County, and most recently we were awarded an additional CMO contract to provide child welfare case management services in Lake and Sumter Counties in the 5th Judicial Circuit. Our child welfare programs collectively serve just over 5,500 children and their families across the State of Florida.
So let us join, in solidarity and commitment, to protect our most vulnerable children. Let us raise awareness of their needs, advocate for their rights, and take action to ensure their safety and well-being. Our children are our future, and we owe it to them to create a world where they can thrive and reach their full potential. Your continued support and steadfast commitment is invaluable to our efforts to prevent and put an end to child abuse.
To learn more about the work we do with children and families, visit https://www.lsfnet.org/children-families/
To learn more about National Child Abuse Prevention month and see other ways you can get involved, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/