GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close Saturday but discussions about solutions shouldn’t end with the month of April.

“Almost 13,000 kids were involved in a child protective services investigation last year in 2021. 1,700 of those were confirmed victims of neglect or abuse,” Wendy Wheeler, Kent County child welfare program manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said.

She cited Kids Count data from 2021, which comes from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Wheeler shared multiple resources available in Kent County to report suspected child abuse. The general phone line is 1.855.444.3911. Support websites are available as well: kentparentinfo.com, SuccessStartsEarly.org and the site for Heart of West Michigan United Way 211.

Wheeler made a point to acknowledge how children themselves can report abuse. She mentioned the OK2SAY statewide program that provides an anonymous tip line to report bullying, suicide prevention, unsafe behaviors in schools and more. In March, the most recent month with data available, 25 tips of child abuse were reported.

Wheeler said resources like these can be utilized by older children, but also stressed the importance of having adults to report problems to.

“We encourage parents to talk about who is a safe adult, who is someone you can go to — someone within the family and someone outside the family,” Wheeler said.

ABUSE IN OTHER FORMS AND LOCAL RESOURCES

“Ninety-nine percent of the time here in Kent County, we find that child victims of abuse know their offender and they know them well,” said Andrea Woller, prevention program manager at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County, an organization focused on providing resources for children who have suffered sexual abuse.

According to the National Children’s Advocacy Center, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18.

“It happens because child sexual abuse thrives in silence,” Woller said.

She said the CAC makes an effort to get into places like schools to teach children to trust prominent adults in their lives who can report potential abuse.

“We talk to kids about having a safety network of adults so that they know that they have grown-ups they can go to with this kind of thing in more than one place, so that they know wherever the abuse is happening, they have adults in the parts of their life that they see often and feel comfortable with,” Woller said.

The Children’s and Adult Protective Services hotline in Kent County, which is staffed all the time, is 855.444.3911.