“One hour, one month or one year and endless opportunities to contribute make it possible for everyone to find a way to help our friends and neighbors and create stronger communities,” said Robin Kennedy, Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes Counties Child Welfare District director. “Oklahomans are famous for taking care of our own. No matter how much time a person has, they can do something positive to change the life of a young person in a struggling family.”
Families are the most basic building block of any community and the statistics in eastern Oklahoma indicate there are high numbers of children and families at risk for experiencing some type of stress that often leads to undesirable outcomes such as divorce, incarceration or children entering state custody.
These situations add stress to the entire community and are concerning to local businesses, faith-based organizations, tribes and community partners.
Families can become fragile for many reasons.
Most often these reasons include divorce, unemployment, school dropout, unintended pregnancies, homelessness, crime, incarceration, injuries and loss of life.
When families are impacted, the entire community is impacted.
“Communities are one living organism just like our bodies,” said Lynn Smith, MPH, CHES, communications and event specialist at Oklahoma Systems of Care. “If a child suffers from a broken arm, the whole body and soul is affected. When communities suffer from broken family units, we all are impacted. From a less productive workforce to increased crime and children entering the system, our communities suffer. We all need to work together to invest in our future on the front end. The time is NOW. Together we can create a stronger, healthier future.”
In eastern Oklahoma alone, in 2013, there were 1,498 confirmed reports of child abuse and neglect representing 2,781 children.
An overwhelming 60 percent of those children were age 0 to 6. This is an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2012.