Oneida County Raises Child Abuse Awareness

‘Go Blue’ Campaign Raises $1,000, Pinwheels Placed, Caseworkers to be Recognized

Oneida County has been raising awareness all April long in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Today, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. was joined by other county and advocacy officials in placing “Pinwheels for Prevention” on the grounds of the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Utica.

“Protecting the children of this community is on the forefront of what we do every day,” Picente said. “During the pandemic, many cases of abuse and neglect went unreported and our most vulnerable population suffered. Our Department of Social Services has worked tirelessly with the CAC, the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices, local law enforcement and community partners such as the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley, to support these victims and to prevent these tragic occurrences.”

The Oneida County Department of Family and Community Services (DFCS) has been conducting a “Go Blue” campaign throughout April, which included the donation of $1,000 by county employees — who all wore blue on April 12 — to support prevention initiatives by the Oneida County Child Fatality Review Team. The County Office Building in Utica has also been lit blue in recognition of the issue. County Department of Social Services caseworkers are being honored for their prevention and support efforts as well.

Oneida County received 4,249 child abuse investigations in 2021, which included 225 joint investigations with law enforcement agencies. County DSS filed 225 neglect/abuse petitions impacting 518 children and 222 families.

The CAC investigated 897 cases of child abuse in 2021, serving 862 children. There were a total of 783 offenders and 67 arrests. Medical exams were provided to 43 children and counseling was provided to 210.

Of the total CAC cases:

• 809 were sexual abuse cases

• 78 were physical abuse cases

• 17 were neglect cases

• 631 were female and 231 were male

• 396 were 13-18 years-old, 272 were 7-12 years-old and 194 were 0-6 years old

“Child abuse is one of those things that many people in the community don’t like to talk about, but we must talk about it and address it with everything that we have,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol. “That’s why having an awareness month to allow us to shed a lot of light on the importance of protecting our children, what the signs of child abuse are and what people can do to help is critical to the mission of the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center.”

“April is a time to recognize the important role that communities, elected leaders, law enforcement and child service providers play in protecting children and strengthening families,” said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara. “Our office fights for the victims of these despicable crimes day in and day out by making sure those who abuse our children are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“As Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, we would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness, as we urge everyone to remain vigilant against child abuse throughout the entire year,” said Chief Deputy Derrick O’Meara, Director of the CAC. “Our children are our future and we must, as a community, do all that we can to ensure their well-being.”

“Child Abuse Prevention Month provides an opportunity to not only raise awareness, but also to recognize the dedication of so many people across various systems of care and within our community that collectively have the courage to recognize, report and actively become part of the solution to reduce child abuse and neglect,” said DFCS Commissioner Colleen Fahy-Box.

The CAC is comprised of members of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, Rome Police, Utica Police and New York State Police, as well as victim advocates from the YWCA Mohawk Valley, mental health counselors from Oneida County DFCS, the Center for Family Life and Recovery and the Neighborhood Center.

Child Protective Services caseworkers are also assigned to the CAC and medical personnel work at the center on an on-call basis to serve victims. The CAC is also the designated agency to investigate cases of child sex trafficking, and has a specialized counselor to deal exclusively with victims of sex trafficking and high-risk youth. The CAC is also a member of Internet Crimes Against Children for which it investigates child pornography. It also monitors 250 registered sex offenders countywide.