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Child abuse reports dwindle in Lafayette County

Lafayette County has experienced a decrease in reports of child abuse cases.

According to Sheriff Joey East of the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, he has not seen an increase or a decrease in the reports of child abuse.

“All I can say is there hasn’t been an increase in reporting,” he said. 

Normally, child abuse is reported by a teacher that sees the child on a regular basis. Due to school closures that started in March brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and lasted until August, child abuse cases have gone unreported.

According to MS.Code 43-21-353, anybody that has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being neglected or abused should report it. The person who reports the abuse will remain confidential, except if the court determines that their testimony is material to the judicial proceeding.

“Most children that are being neglected generally have poor hygiene, wear dirty clothes, and hoard food in the case that they may not be getting fed at home,” said Erin Smith the founding executive director of CASA of Lafayette County. “When at school, often they fall short in their studies and schoolwork, cling to adults in the schools or outside of the home. Physical abuse would result in bruising, marks on the body, children that are on edge when being touched by someone even for something as simple as a pat on the shoulder. These are a few simple signs to look for.”

CASA of Lafayette County, or Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, is a non-profit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the Youth Court. Volunteers get assigned to court cases after they go through 30 hours of preservice training and then are sworn in by a Youth Court judge.

These cases usually involve children who have been removed from their homes and have been placed in foster care. The volunteers will stay with their assigned child(ren)’s case until they are in a safe and permanent home, whether that is through reunification or adoption.