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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect. Through this collaboration, prevention services and supports help protect children and produce thriving families.

On Monday, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette hosted a “pinwheel planting” event at Bogalusa City Hall with Hope House Children’s Advocacy Center and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

The pinwheel is a happy, uplifting symbol of childhood and can be used in a number of ways to draw attention to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Hope House is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of child abuse in the community. They provide a path to recovery and a bridge to justice for victims of abuse. CAC Hope House provides forensic interviewing, family advocacy, counseling services, and prevention outreach within St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

The Department of Children and Family Services works to protect children against abuse and/or neglect, find permanent homes for Louisiana’s foster children and to educate the public on Safe Sleep and Louisiana’s Safe Haven Law.

Various community leaders, law enforcement officers, service providers and advocates gathered to plant blue pinwheels. According to Leslie Lyons, Regional Administrator for the Department of Children and Family Services, there are currently 83 children in foster care in Washington Parish and 581 in the Covington Region (Washington, St. Tammany, Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes).

Statewide, there are 3,373 children in foster care. In 2020, the Washington Parish DCFS Office conducted 221 child abuse/neglect investigations, with 37 percent of those cases being substantiated. The department is also currently providing services to 37 children who remain in the home with their families.

Information regarding reporting child abuse or neglect can be found on the DCFS website at www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. Citizens can also call 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437) toll-free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential.

There is a great need for foster parents, especially for teenagers. Information regarding how to become a foster parent can be found on the DCFS website or by calling 985-893-6225 and asking to speak with a home development worker.