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Crime & Courts

Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month recognized nationally and in South Dakota

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President Biden and Gov. Kristi Noem pictured with a blue Prevent Child Abuse ribbon.

President Joe Biden and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem are both recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.

The Department of Social Services' Division of Child Protection Services in South Dakota received more than 16,000 reports of child abuse and neglect during 2021. State law requires adults in any safety-sensitive position to report suspected child abuse. This includes doctors, school personnel, law enforcement officers and volunteers at domestic-abuse shelters. The failure to report child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor offense in South Dakota.

Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment in their definitions of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse or neglect. The full language of the state law can be found here.

In the 2021-22 prevention resource guide from the U.S. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Director Elaine Voces Stedt stresses the importance of supporting families all year long in ways that enable them to care for their children safely before maltreatment is a possibility.

South Dakota Department of Social Services Secretary Laurie Gill echoes this in the state's announcement saying, “DSS has resources to help parents develop skillsets to prevent abuse or neglect before it ever happens.”

In President Biden's proclamation, he announces new guidance for state child welfare agencies on supporting and affirming LGBTQI+ children who are in foster care. The president writes that this year the nation has witnessed "a cynical and dangerous campaign waged by some elected leaders who are attempting to weaponize the child welfare system against families just because they love and affirm their transgender children."

In February, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a letter interpreting gender-affirming health care as child abuse and directing his Department of Family Protective Services to investigate parents of trans children who affirm them by providing this care.

To learn more about available resources in South Dakota, visit the Department of Social Services website.