BALTIMORE (April 3, 2013) – April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, and the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) is partnering with child welfare advocates and the community to promote greater awareness of child abuse and child neglect.

 “All of us share the responsibility of keeping children safe” said Ted Dallas, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources.  “If you suspect child abuse and neglect, please contact the department immediately. Your call can be anonymous and can make the difference in a child’s life.”

 Beginning in July, the department will begin to implement Alternative Response — a better   approach for handling certain types of low-risk reports of abuse and neglect. Alternative Response allows caseworkers to tailor their approach and services to best address the needs of families.  The result is a smarter system that has been shown to produce improved safety outcomes for children and stronger families.

For low-risk cases assigned to Alternative Response, the Department will work collaboratively with the family to provide services without the threat of a formal finding of abuse or neglect.  High risk reports including cases involving serious physical injury or sexual abuse will be handled the same way they are today, resulting in a formal finding.

“Moving away from the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach puts our workers in a position to help families identify their strengths and weaknesses and link them to needed community services. It makes no sense to treat these low-risk cases the same way we handle more serious allegations of child abuse and neglect,”said Secretary Dallas.

Alternative Response will be phased-in across the state starting this summer, beginning in Garrett, Allegany, Montgomery, Frederick and Washington counties.

Child abuse and child neglect affects children of every age, race and family income level. Research has identified many factors relating to the child, family, community, and society that are associated with an increased risk of abuse and neglect. Studies also have shown that when multiple risk factors are present, the risk is greater.  In Maryland there were more than 29,000 investigations of child abuse last year.

 Individuals placed under stress by financial worries, poverty, divorce, or a child’s disability may be at greater risk of causing children harm or neglecting their needs. Other contributing factors may include stress about employment, health, substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, or other problems.

 The Department of Human Resources, through the local departments of social services, investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. Maryland law mandates the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect by doctors, teachers and other professionals who interact with children. In addition, anyone who has concerns for the safety and well being of a minor should report their suspicions to the proper authorities. This reporting can be done anonymously.  Call 1-800-332-6347 or call your local department of social services if you suspect child abuse or neglect.

Additional information about Alternative Response can be found on our Website:

Filed in: Child Welfare

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