National Child Abuse Prevention Month — managing a new ‘epidemic’

Special to GateHouse Media Florida

PENSACOLA — April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, and FamiliesFirst Network (FFN) of Lakeview Center is encouraging the community to help meet an increased need for safe homes to children 5 years old and younger.

Data through November 2018 shows that substance abuse accounts for 73 percent of child removals in Circuit 1 (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties). Escambia and Walton counties lead the charge. The statistics include a variety of drugs, but opioids including heroin are the most severe.

We know that addiction is not a choice. It’s a disease, and the individual suffering from it is not the only one affected. Children, especially young ones, are at grave risk for abuse or neglect when their parent is addicted. The highest child removals are for children 5 years old and younger because it’s more difficult to care for a newborns or young children who needs round-the-clock care. The need for temporary foster parents is great right now for these young members of our community. Help is available for parents, and while in treatment, FFN works with foster families to provide safe, loving homes for children.

FamiliesFirst Network in partnership with Embrace Families is excited to feature the MANicure Movement this month. The campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness by painting your index fingernail blue to garner attention and help start the conversation about Child Abuse Prevention. FFN encourages the community to participate and to consider making a contribution to FFN as we work to support safe and stable families. Visit to learn more about the campaign and also to access the Baptist Health Care Foundation donation site. Simply select “FamiliesFirst Network” to ensure your donation goes toward helping children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Considering that one in four children will experience abuse before they turn 18 it’s important that our community takes action to help ensure the safety of children in Circuit 1.

Report abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Florida Abuse Hotline at 800-962-2873. For the deaf call 800-453-5145. If it is an emergency, please call 911. If you can open your home to a child call a Foster Care representative at 850-453-7777. Follow us at for activities occurring throughout April.