Natchez Children’s Services adds new programs to educate community about child abuse

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — Two new community education programs have Natchez Children’s Service working to empower the public to identify, report and reduce the incidence of child abuse.

NCS recently added two new programs — Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children and SafeTouch — to the many services provided by its Children’s Advocacy Center.

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Started in 2012, the Children’s Advocacy Center is a program that focuses on children who have been victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect.

In January the center received accreditation through the National Children’s Alliance, the national accrediting body for children advocacy centers.

“It’s the highest level of accreditation we can get, and it has been a long process,” Executive Director Nancy Hungerford said. “We had a site review in early December, people from D.C. came down and looked over everything.”

Hungerford said the two new programs will help NCS continue to be a catalyst for several agencies that are all focused on the goal of helping children. Both Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children and SafeTouch enable  the NCS to leave its Union Street offices to reach out into the community.

Darkness to Light is a two-hour training program recommended for adults working with youth  organizations, such as sports leagues, day care centers, schools, clubs and churches. The program details the five steps for protecting children developed by a national non-profit working with child sexual abuse. A $15 per participant charge covers the cost teaching materials.

SafeTouch is a program specifically targeted to children.

“SafeTouch works with kids, K through 5, and the purpose of it is to teach kids about safety,” Victim Family Advocate Dee Jones said. “You want to teach them that their body is their own, and that the only touches they want to receive are ‘OK’ touches.”

Hungerford said NCS is also working to include counselors from the school district on its monthly, multidisciplinary team. Members of the team include those who work with children in some way. Team members include law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and members of the district attorney’s office.

“These are all separate organizations that work with children. They each have a little bit to bring to the table,” Hungerford said.

The primary goal of the MDT is to encourage citizens in the community to be a voice for children and to call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000 if they suspect a child is being subjected to abuse, Hungerford said.

Calls are routed to Jackson, and are sent out to the proper investigative authorities.

Anyone interested in knowing more about Darkness to Light and Safe Touch can call Natchez Children’s Services at 601-442-6858.