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 Office Building was also lit up 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 18,500 children received services at a Child Advocacy Center for physical and sexual abuse in 2023.

Oneida County received 3,976 child abuse investigations in 2023, 602 of which were assigned to the CAC (368 were joint investigations with law enforcement agencies). Child Protective Services filed 171 neglect/abuse petitions impacting 465 children and 225 families. There were 442 youth in placement and there are currently 590 open cases with youth and families to prevent further entry into the child welfare and juvenile justice system.

The CAC investigated 1,041 cases of child abuse in 2023, serving 980 children. There were a total of 722 alleged offenders and 47 arrests. Medical exams were provided to 31 children and counseling was provided to 238.

Of the total CAC cases:

* 944 were sexual abuse cases

* 12 were physical abuse cases

* 24 were neglect cases

* 661 were female

* 319 were male

* 390 were 13-18 years-old

* 367 were 7-12 years-old

* 223 were 0-6 years old

“Child abuse is not something that can be ignored,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol. “It is something that must be addressed with every resource at our disposal. Every year, we use this event to bring attention to the need to protect our children. Not only do we need to be aware of the symptoms of child abuse, but we also need to educate the public on the steps they can take to help. This is critical to the mission of the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center.“

“The protection of children from the evils of this world is top priority in the District Attorney’s office,” said District Attorney Todd C. Carville. “In recognition of April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, we encourage our entire community to be aware of the signs associated with child abuse and to aid law enforcement in standing up against it. Our office will continue to fight for victims of these despicable crimes daily by prosecuting those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

“April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month,” said Chief Deputy Derrick O’Meara, Director of the CAC. “In an effort to raise awareness for child abuse prevention in our community, we urge everyone to recognize that they can be the one to be part of the solution. Teachers, parents, community members, neighbors and friends all have the power and responsibility to help keep children safe. You can be the one in the life of a child to help end abuse.”

“Neglect is often the result of economic and social inequity that impacts the availability of necessary resources to successfully raise a healthy child,” said DFCS Commissioner Colleen Fahy-Box. “That is why it is critical that as community members, we recognize the part every person plays in preventing child abuse. Small acts of kindness and concern, involvement in civic organizations that support youth and families, awareness of the needs of the children we interface with on a regular basis, being a resource to a struggling parent or child and many other such actions play a critical role in reducing child maltreatment and creating happier and healthier environments for children to grow and thrive.”

Anyone who is aware that a child is in immediate danger should call 911. If someone suspects that a child is the victim of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect or maltreatment, it can be reported to the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720.

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 and the Center for Family Life and Recovery.

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.