Prevent Child Abuse/Neglect

Prevent Child Abuse/NeglectPrevention is the best way to reduce child abuse and neglect and improve the lives of children and families.

MDCPS administers several programs dedicated to child abuse prevention and protection in Mississippi:

  • Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs offer activities to the general public about preventing child abuse and neglect. In addition, these local programs also provide services to at-risk families.
  • Child Protective Services is the resource through which a report of child abuse is investigated, criminal charges may be filed, and the child may be removed from the home for the child’s safety.

MDCPS Staff Only – Child Abuse Prevention Promotional Item Request

Community Request – Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Items

Prevent Child Abuse Mississippi Pinwheels for Prevention

Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention

Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs should have some activities available to the general population, such as public awareness and education about preventing child abuse and neglect. In addition, programs should also target services to vulnerable families that are at risk of abuse or neglect.

These families include:

  • Parents
  • Parents and/or children with disabilities
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Members of underserved or underrepresented groups
  • Fathers

CBCAP programs are authorized to fund child abuse prevention programs in their service area that provide a multitude of services and supports.

These services and programs can include:

  • Comprehensive support for parents
  • Promoting the development of parenting skills
  • Improving family access to formal and informal resources
  • Supporting needs of parents with disabilities through respite or other activities
  • Providing referrals for early health and development services
  • Promoting meaningful parent leadership

Programs can also finance the development of a continuum of preventive services through public-private partnerships; finance the startup, maintenance, expansion, or redesign of child abuse prevention programs; maximize funding through leveraging funds; and finance public education activities that focus on the promotion of child abuse prevention.

The key federal legislation addressing prevention of child abuse and neglect is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), originally enacted in 1974. This act has been amended several times in the last 31 years and was most recently amended and reauthorized June 25, 2003, by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003.

The Office of Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) at the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Families, United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) is responsible for overseeing and managing the CBCAP program. OCAN provides support to state lead agencies through funds from the National Resource Center or FRIENDS, which can provide training and technical assistance to lead agencies based on the requirements of the CBCAP program.

Child Protective Services

In accordance with Section 43-21-105 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, “Abused Child means a child whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, whether legally obligated to do so or not, has caused or allowed to be caused upon said child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, emotional abuse, mental injury, non-accidental physical injury or other maltreatment. Provided, however that physical discipline, including spanking, performed on a child by a parent, guardian or custodian in a reasonable manner shall not be deemed abuse under this section.”

In regard to physical abuse, it is important to understand that although parents, guardians, and custodians are legally allowed to utilize corporal punishment, they are not allowed to cause bruises, marks, or other injuries to children when utilizing corporal punishment. Any evidence of such will constitute abuse by the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.

Who is considered to be a child?

A person who has not reached his/her 18th birthday.

Who do I call to make a report?

A report may be made to the hotline, 1-800-222-8000, a statewide toll-free 24-hour line that is answered seven days a week.

What happens when I call in a report?

When a report is received, it is screened by a supervisor to decide whether it should be investigated. If the report warrants an investigation, it is then assigned to a worker. First, the worker will interview the child privately. Then every member of the household is interviewed privately. At least one non-family member (teacher, doctor, etc.) who knows the child is interviewed. When the facts back up an abuse report, the department will make a report to the district attorney within 72 hours. The district attorney determines whether criminal charges can be filed.

How old must a child be to be left alone at home?

It depends on each individual child’s maturity.

Who may report a suspected case of child abuse?

In accordance with Section 43-21-353 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, “Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, family protection worker, family protection specialist, child caregiver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Child Protection Services …”

Do people who are reporting a suspected case of child abuse have to identify themselves?


What will happen if you know of abuse and don’t report it?

Upon being found guilty, the individual shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $5,000, imprisonment in jail not to exceed one year, or both (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated Section 43-21-353(7)).

What are some indicators of abuse?

Emotional and verbal Abuse is anything said or done that is hurtful or threatening to a child and is the most difficult form of maltreatment to identify. Examples include:

  • Name calling (“You’re stupid”)
  • Belittling (“I wish you were never born”)
  • Destroying child’s possessions or pets
  • Threatens to harm child or people they care about (“I’m going to choke you” or “I’ll break your arm”)
  • Locking a child in a closet or box
  • Rejecting a child
  • Isolating a child

Sexual abuse is any inappropriate touching by a friend, family member, anyone having on-going contact, and/or a stranger. Examples include:

  • Touching a child’s genital area
  • Any type of penetration of a child
  • Allowing a child to view or participate in pornography
  • Prostitution, selling your child for money, drugs, etc.
  • Forcing a child to perform oral sex acts
  • Masturbating in front of a child
  • Having sex in front of a child

Physical abuse is any type of contact that results in bodily harm, such as bruising, abrasions, broken bones, internal injuries, burning, missing teeth, and skeletal injuries. Examples include:

  • Hitting or slapping a child with an extension cord, hands, belts, fists, broom handles, brushes, etc.
  • Putting child into hot water
  • Cutting the child with a knife or any other sharp object
  • Shaking or twisting arms or legs or yanking a child by the arm
  • Putting tape over a child’s mouth
  • Tying a child up with rope or cord
  • Throwing a child across a room or down the stairs

Neglect means not meeting the basic needs of the child and is the most common form of maltreatment:

  • Medical – not giving a child life-sustaining medicines, over-medicating, and not obtaining special treatment devices deemed necessary by a physician
  • Supervision – leaving child/children unattended and leaving child/children in the care of other children too young to protect them (depending upon the maturity of the child)
  • Clothing and Hygiene – dressing children inadequately for weather and persistent skin disorders resulting from improper hygiene
  • Nutrition – lack of sufficient quantity or quality of food, letting a child consistently complain of hunger, and allowing the child to rummage for food
  • Shelter – having structurally unsafe housing, inadequate heating, and unsanitary housing conditions

Children’s Justice Act

The Children’s Justice Act (CJA) helps states to develop, establish, and operate programs designed to improve the investigation, prosecution, and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases (particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation) in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child victim. This act also addresses the handling of child fatality cases in which child abuse or neglect is suspected and of some cases of children with disabilities and serious health problems who are victims of abuse and neglect.

Typical CJA activities include developing curricula and conducting training for personnel in law enforcement and child protective services, as well as health and mental health professionals, prosecutors and judges.

  • Establishing or enhancing child advocacy centers and other multidisciplinary programs to serve victims and their families in order to minimize trauma.
  • Establishing and supporting local and/or state child fatality review teams, including multidisciplinary training, team development, and annual reporting.
  • Supporting the enactment of laws to improve systems response, including allowing the admission of indirect testimony of children into evidence, making the courtroom setting less intimidating for children, increasing the penalties for sexual offenses against children, requiring mandatory sentencing, shortening the trial process, and permitting victims to make statements prior to sentencing.

The Mississippi Children’s Justice Act was enacted by the Mississippi Legislature in 1997. Federal guidelines mandated that the state create a Children’s Justice Act Task Force composed of professionals with experience in child abuse case handling.

In September 1999, the Mississippi CJA grant funded the development of a statewide Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Review Team Network. This project was in response to the need for the CJA grant in Mississippi to address, in a more systemic manner, the handling of child abuse cases in the state.

The progressive establishment of a coordinated network of child abuse review teams, providing both a mechanism for improved multidisciplinary cooperation and a means for ongoing specialized training and technical assistance, is the tangible vehicle through which this sought-after result is being achieved.

Citizen’s Review Panel

There was a time not so long ago when a cow had more rights than a child. The nation’s first anti-cruelty laws protected animals, not children. Based on precepts dating to the Middle Ages and before, society treated children as little more than their parent’s property until the late 19th century.

The first help for abused and neglected children came from charitable organizations. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, founded in 1874, was the first child protection organization in the world. By the 1920s, there were about 250 such organizations across the United States.

Child welfare advocates have long been interested in prompting public bureaucracies to become more responsive to citizen participation in decision-making processes for social services and income support systems for needy children. The interest in promoting greater citizen involvement in programs and policies geared toward the well-being of children is based on policy goals related to pragmatic and community-focused objectives. This approach is pragmatic because it provides a mechanism for helping ensure that state agencies are accountable for families and communities.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed legislation mandating Citizen Review Panels (CRP) for child protective services in all states. These panels are composed of citizen-volunteers who are charged with evaluating state child welfare systems and making suggestions for improvement. The expectations of CRP in examining the policies and procedures of state and local agencies include:

  • Type and extent of social services available for children and families
  • Relationships among agencies (courts, law enforcement, schools)
  • State standards relative to information on what works and what does not work

According to the Mississippi State Level Citizens Review Board, panels shall consist of no less than 10 members and no more than 18 members. Panel membership is required to be comprised of a balance of service providers to abused and neglected children and families (including adoption services) and local citizens (including consumers of services of the Child Protective Services system, such as foster parents, former foster children, adoptive parents and parents, as well as interested business and civic representatives, educators, and members of the community at large).

Children’s Trust Fund

The Children’s Trust Fund concept originated with the late Ray E. Helfer, M.D., an internationally recognized pediatrician in the field of child abuse and prevention. Dr. Helfer saw trust funds used to care for our nation’s highways and wildlife, so why not have trust funds to care for our nation’s children? His idea has been the catalyst for the nationwide network of community-based programs that have been initiated by states with children’s trust and prevention funds. The first CTF was created in the state of Kansas in 1980.

Today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have passed legislation to establish a trust or prevention fund. Nationwide, states’ children’s trust and prevention funds receive revenue from a variety of sources, such as surcharge fees on marriage licenses or other vital records, individual and corporate fundraising, and state and federal resources.

Children’s Trust Funds play a leadership role with other organizations in the community when seeking to prevent child abuse and neglect before it occurs. Children’s Trust Funds have demonstrated the capacity to serve as leaders of coalitions and collaborative efforts focused on prevention. Additional strengths include the support and promotion of innovative strategies to strengthen families and prevent abuse. Children’s Trust Funds are well respected in the professional community for their leadership and commitment to prevention.

The Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund was created by the Mississippi Legislature in 1989. The primary purpose of the fund is to encourage and provide financial assistance in the provision of direct services to prevent child abuse and neglect.

A 13-member Advisory Council provides direction and recommendations on behalf of the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund. The Advisory Council must include directors of these four state agencies: Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Department of Mental Health, and Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.

To fund the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund, the Mississippi Legislature allows a one-dollar surcharge on every birth certificate and a $1,000 fine imposed by the court on each person that commits certain crimes against a minor. The mission of the Advisory Council is to reduce child abuse and neglect by:

  • Authorizing the disbursement of money from the Children’s Trust Fund
  • Making recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly for changes in state statutes, policies, and standards
  • Improving coordination among state agencies that provide prevention services
  • Expanding programs statewide that provide preventive services

The National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds initiates and engages in national efforts that assist state Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds in strengthening families to prevent child abuse and neglect. This effort includes promoting and supporting a system of services, laws, practices, and attitudes that support families by enabling them to provide their children with a safe, healthy, and nurturing childhood.

Advisory Council Members