Bancroft council has approved making October Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Executive Coordinator for Therapeutic Family Care Erin Beatty and Program Manager Duane Durham joined council last week before the motion was passed to discuss the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and what will be done in October.

Beatty said the annual month-long campaign started with a focus on the work children’s aid societies do in cases of abuse and neglect. “Over the past few years, with the move to dress purple day and the classroom resources we’ve slowly shifted to focusing on the work children’s aid societies do to support families and youth,” she added. Beatty said that with this year’s campaign, the shift will be complete.

The main campaign in October will be Dress Purple Day on the 27th. “We show families facing challenges that we care and can help,” Beatty said. The aim of the day is to raise awareness about the supports available and how to access them.

According to Statistics Canada data from 2016, 38,000 children 15 and under are served by Highland Shores Children’s Aid. Beatty said that 5.7-percent are referred to the agency. “In recent years, volume and unique service needs required a dedicated youth service team,” Beatty said. The statistics show that only 20-percent of referrals are related to “extreme abuse” with most cases as a result of families being unable to meet a child’s physical or emotional needs.

Last year, 3,903 child protection intakes were done by Highland Shores with 61-percent assessed as needing service.

Mayor Paul Jenkins asked if the “full effects” of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt yet by the team at Highland Shores. Durham said he doesn’t believe so. “When COVID stated one of our concerns was that we would have a number of children in care who would react negatively and need a lot of extra support,” he said. Durham said that a lot of pressure was taken off of kids’ shoulders by not having to return to school when they normally would. “A lot of reports we get are from schools and daycares,” he said, which is why he expects to see more referrals in the coming months.

As of June 2020, 65-percent of the families Highland Shores provides services to are in Hastings County, 31-percent in Northumberland County, nine-percent in Prince Edward County, four-percent are out of their jurisdiction and one-percent are unknown.