Oneida County Raises Child Abuse Awareness

Annual Event Supports National Prevention Campaign

County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. was joined by county officials and partnering agencies today to raise awareness of child abuse and support measures for its prevention.

The event takes place each year at the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Utica and coincides with National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.

“Nothing we do in this county is more important than protecting our children,” Picente said. “Our caseworkers and investigators are on the frontlines, fighting to stop these atrocities from occurring, and supporting victims of these reprehensible acts. It is the duty of all of us, however, to recognize, report, and actively become part of the solution to reduce child abuse and neglect. When children and families are supported, the entire community benefits.”

Those in attendance participated in the annual tradition of placing pinwheels on the grounds of the CAC to symbolize healthy, happy childhoods.

The Oneida County Department of Family and Community Services (DFCS) has been conducting a “Go Blue” campaign throughout April, which will include employee donations to support prevention initiatives by the county’s Child Fatality Review Team. The County Office Building in Utica has also been lit blue in recognition of the issue.

Statistics show that in the U.S., more than 600,000 children are abused each year, one in 10 children are sexually abused before the age of 18, and that there are approximately 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse. In New York State, over 22,000 children receive services at a Child Advocacy Center for physical and sexual abuse annually.

Oneida County received 4,202 child abuse investigations in 2022, which included 327 joint investigations with law enforcement agencies. The Department of Social Services filed 225 neglect/abuse petitions impacting 450 children and 200 families.

The CAC investigated 933 cases of child abuse in 2022, serving 833 children. There were a total of 675 offenders and 62 arrests. Medical exams were provided to 127 children and counseling was provided to 191.

Of the total CAC cases:

· 700 were sexual abuse cases

· 29 were physical abuse cases

· 34 were neglect cases

· 562 were female

· 271 were male

· 341 were 13-18 years-old

· 277 were 7-12 years-old

· 89 were 0-6 years old

“Child abuse is something that can never remain in the dark,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol. “We must always talk about and address it with everything that we have. Each year, this event allows us to shed light on the importance of protecting our children. Recognizing the signs of child abuse and educating people on what they 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.”

“In recognition of April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, we would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness in our community as we urge everyone to remain vigilant against child abuse throughout the entire year,” said Chief Deputy Derrick O’Meara, Director of the CAC. “Child sexual abuse can be a tough subject to talk about. The good news is that if you learn the facts, know the signs and listen to children, you have the chance to be a hero in the life of a child. Because every child deserves their best tomorrow.”

“Child Abuse is a serious social issue often impacted by a lack of resources or supports,” said DFCS Commissioner Colleen Fahy-Box. “When a community works together, and everyone plays a role, child abuse and neglect can be prevented. I applaud those who work with children and families in any capacity — as a professional, a volunteer, a friend, a family member or a concerned citizen — to ensure children have positive experiences and families have the necessary resources to nurture and care for them.”

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.