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Cumberland Programs Help Protect Children from Child Abuse

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FAYETTEVILLE — Child abuse is a problem that comes and goes from the headlines, but it is not getting any better.

In Cumberland County this week, detectives have arrested four adults on child abuse charges.

Child abuse has been a red flag in the community for quite some time. The county has the third highest number of reported abuse cases in the state, but there is an ongoing effort here to protect the children.

"Stop it! If you don't, I'm going to put you outside. Leave me alone. Go away."

That is what Notasha Walker's three children heard day in and day out until recently. The 22-year-old single mother was charged with child neglect, and she admits she could not stop the verbal abuse.

She was afraid it would escalate to physical abuse and asked for help before it was too late.

"I don't want my children to hurt the way they've already hurt," said Walker.

Walker's situation is not unique. In Cumberland County, reports of abuse or neglect came in for 53 children out of 1,000 in 1996.

It jumped to 71 kids in 1997, and last year there were 72 cases per thousand.

Walker turned to the free class at Cumberland County Mental Health. Clinical social worker Christy Wagner teaches parents how to handle discipline and stress.

"Not only does a child need to go to a timeout, but I may need to go to a timeout to give myself time to cool down," said Wagner.

While education is key, several local agencies and churches have come together to come up with other solutions.

This Child Abuse Summit, with 400 participants, was held last February, and several smaller groups have met since. While a lot still needs to be done, organizers believe some of the solutions have stopped the numbers from climbing even further.

Walker hopes the help she received will keep her out of the statistics.

"I'm going to try and be the best parent I can," said Walker.

As a result of the Child Abuse Summit, a new video will soon be released about parenting. Other ideas that were proposed in the summit are still ongoing.

Child abuse is a national problem, and the numbers are startling.

According to an annual survey by theNational Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, 3,126,000 children reported being abused this past year.

Of those substantiated cases, 60 percent involved neglect, and 23 percent of children suffered physical abuse.

Nine percent were sexually abused, and four were emotionally mistreated.


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