On Thursday, the Berkshire County Kids’ Place & Violence Prevention Center is holding its 2nd annual child abuse prevention conference. Christa Collier, Director of Kids’ Place, said the event is intended to raise awareness of child abuse among Berkshire County adults.
Collier said the conference will be well attended by community professionals and mandated reporters of child abuse. She added that mandated reporters are not limited to doctors, teachers, or social workers.
“Think about dentists in terms of mandated reporters,” said Collier, “we might not necessarily think of them on the front lines of possibly seeing suspecting child abuse.”
According to the most recent data from the state Department of Children and Families, some Berkshire County communities have some of the highest rates of reported child abuse in the commonwealth. In 2010 North Adams had the highest level of reported abuse in the state, while Pittsfield had the third-highest level.
However, Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said that it’s difficult to gauge the occurrence of abuse on statistics alone.
“We believe that because of the work we’ve been doing out in the community with professionals that is a reflection of heightened number of reports not necessarily of a heightened occurrence of actual abuse,” said Capeless.
Capeless’ office works in tandem with Kids’ Place in the community to educate the public about child abuse and neglect. He said child abuse is an issue every community must prepare itself against.
The keynote speaker at the event will be Darlene Ellison, a national advocate for victims of child and family violence, and author of The Predator Next Door Detect: Protect and Recover from Betrayal. Ellison said that her address will send a message to attendees that recognizing and reporting child abuse is not only a professional responsibility.
Ellison also said that teaching adults on how to report and recognize is not the only way to curb child abuse, but it’s also up to parents and adults to teach children about how they can communicate about issues of abuse or neglect.
“If we’re not empowering our children in terms of how to protect themselves…then I think we’re missing the boat in protection,” said Ellison.
The event, “Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention Strategies for Our Community”, will be held at the Pittsfield Country Club in Pittsfield, from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm on Thursday.