DHS works to prevent child neglect, abuse

DHS works to prevent child neglect, abuse

LAWTON, Okla._Currently, there are more than 11,000 victims of neglect and abuse being supervised by the state.

In 2013, the Department of Human Services reported more than 1,100 confirmed cases of child neglect in Comanche County alone.

One DHS case worker says they are seeing a rise in drug abuse in the homes. She even singled out meth as a drug heavily used in Comanche County. Despite those problems, there are dozens of ways DHS is trying to turn the unstable homes around.

Child abuse and child neglect cases happen all over the state. More than 11,000 children are currently in the custody of the state, and that's a number Korina Gee, the Department of Humans Services district director of Comanche County, says she is trying to change. But it can be challenging because of the increase drug abuse in the area.

"The cases we are getting, it's not so much a dirty home, it's a deplorable home when we go in there and there are drugs all about," Gee said.

In those homes, it can be more difficult because the parent often needs to be sent to a rehabilitation facility, leaving the child behind. In some cases, parents are just scared to ask for help because they don't know what's available to them.

Melissa Long, a child welfare specialist with DHS, says she sees it often.

"We get calls a lot of the times that kids don't have enough food, enough clothes and these are things that are easy for us to go out and refer them to things in the community. And often, a lot of people are just not aware that we have the services in our community available," Long explained.

For the young parents struggling to find their way, or those suffering from drug addiction, there are comprehensive home-based services and family services that focus on the day-to-day workings inside the home for a period of six to nine months.

"Safety things, like things not everyone thinks of, like setting up the child locks, making sure your medicines are put up, making sure if you do have a gun that it is locked up and put away out of the child's reach," Long said.

No matter why case workers are referred to the home, Gee stresses don't hesitate to call, it will most likely save that child's life.

"If you know a child under the age of 18 that you think has been abused or neglected or is a victim, call it in. Don't worry about being wrong, don't worry about someone finding out because it is strictly anonymous," Gee said.

DHS has a multitude of pamphlets covering a wide variety of topics, including creating a safe environment, connecting with your teen and how to help a child during military deployments.

If you need help, reach out to DHS. If you think you've come across a child being abused, call DHS at 1-800-522-3511.