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Florida's new approach on child abuse prevention

3:39 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
Florida First Lady Ann Scott helps children plant pinwheels at the Governor's Mansion as part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The leader of Florida's Department of Children and Families said he's preparing to transform the way the agency addresses child abuse and neglect.

David Wilkins said he will launch a new campaign in the coming months focusing more on preventing child abuse before it happens, rather than reacting to it.

Wilkins outlined the initiative Friday at the Governor's Mansion where First Lady Ann Scott welcomed students to kick off Florida's annual child abuse prevention campaign.

They planted pinwheels in front of the mansion as part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.

Wilkins said Florida is moving to spend more money on the front end of its child welfare system to prevent abuse and dysfunction in families.

Wilkins says for every $2 the state spends on prevention, it saves $10 in the future.

"In the past, prevention has been a hobby in the business of child welfare. When there's extra dollars, sprinkle a few dollars around to help on different prevention initiatives. Over the next year, you're going to see prevention is going to be the primary focus of what we're trying to accomplish in the agency."

He said another key to addressing child abuse is enlisting help from the community.

"Everyone has a responsibility to be the eyes and the ears of identifying child abuse across this state and every organization has a role to play to be a mentor or support structure or a funder or just a helping hand to every organization that is trying to help children in this state."

First Lady Ann Scott is asking Florida to think about what they can do to prevent child abuse.

She said everyone has unique skills and abilities that can help build a brighter future for children.

"I encourage all of you to promote the health and well being of every child in our great state and donate your time to children's causes."

Ann Scott said you might consider becoming a youth mentor or literacy coach.

Other ideas include lending support to new parents -- and that can be as simple as holding or changing a baby to give a new mom or dad a break.

Praise parents and make them feel good about their parenting skills, or offer support when you see a stressed out parent in public who's having a tough time.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida suggests offering to help, "You seem to have your hands full. Can I help?"

That can help them take a breath and calm down.

First Coast News

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