State records reveal physical child abuse reports went up 20 per - KPTV - FOX 12

State records reveal physical child abuse reports went up 20 percent in fiscal year 2016

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The Department of Human Services Child Welfare 2016 Report claims there were 11,843 unduplicated child abuse and neglect victims in Oregon, and in 94 percent of those cases the perpetrators were family members. 

It’s a disturbing statistic to staff at local relief nurseries.

"It's a little alarming," said Crystal Ross of the Volunteers of America Family Relief Nursery.  "That's a pretty high increase."

DHS tells FOX 12 the 2017 Child Welfare Report will not come out until later in 2018.

The Volunteers of America Family Relief Nursey in southeast Portland was established to keep kids safe from abuse and provide at-risk families with intensive support.

It’s support Lauren Murray feels while she visits the daycare, years after surviving the unthinkable.

"I was kidnaped and held hostage by my ex-boyfriend at knifepoint," said Murray.

Murray's son was there with her at the time. The two escaped unharmed, but back then, Murray said she was also battling a drug addiction. 

Ultimately because of it all, her son wound up in foster care.

"DHS said he was around unsafe people so they took him," she said.

Eventually Murray regained custody of her son, but admits she felt overwhelmed by the stressors of parenting. She turned to the relief nursery for help.

"Overall, it's just a great program for health and support. Not everyone has a village they can go to, not everyone has hope, friends and family, so I think this really fills in that gap for people,” Murray said.

"Without relief nurseries in place where they are, I'm afraid some parents would feel in my own words, hopelessness," said Ross.

Ross oversees the nursery intervention and prevention program for families with children 6 weeks to 5 years old. Ross said employees specifically work to strengthen what they call "fragile families" that are at risk of abusing or neglecting children, or at risk of permanently losing custody.  

Sometimes staff will make home visits and even offer transportation to the nursery.  All services are provided at no charge to families.

"Transportation is a huge barrier, it's a big challenge for many clients," said Ross. "Many clients are in transition, so they may not be where they are in a few months.  We'll meet them in a bank parking lot, a grocery store, we will come and pick them up and meet them where they are."

Right now, Ross said they're helping more families than ever before. In 2017, they took in 153 different children.  

"At our outer southeast site, there's a wait list for the waiting list, the need is that great out there," said Ross. "I do think it has to do with people experiencing homelessness, mental and physical health, poverty, all of it contributes to the higher number we're seeing."

The relief nursery in southeast Portland is one of about 30 different relief nurseries established across Oregon.  All fight to stop child abuse before it happens and teach parents how to cope with any challenges they may be facing. 

"We work collaboratively with relief nurseries like Lifeworks, but there's relief nurseries everywhere across the state,” said Murray. “We do what we can to meet quarterly, collaborate and find out what we're doing and what works best to help families."

Murray credits staff at the VOA Family Relief Nursery for changing her family's life.  

"I didn't have custody for a year, so it was really hard not to feel guilty and not to parent out of guilt.  The relief nursery helped me understand that structure is still really important," said Murray.

By sharing her story, she hopes to inspire others to get help.

"This is not a place where you will be judged. I think there's a lot of shame that people feel in asking for help with children, but there's no shaming here. Everyone is open and honest and really nice.  They go out of the way to help you in any possible way they can."

The first step to receiving services at a relief nursery is to call and set up an intake appointment. Staff will determine if you qualify to receive services. 

For more information, go Volunteers of America Relief Nursery or Lifeworks

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