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Number of children reported abused or neglected going up

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -

The number of children reported abused or neglected is going up in our state, according to the Jordan Institute for Families at UNC Chapel Hill.

The organization says the number of children reported for abuse and neglect went up 35 percent from 1997 to 2012.

"One possible explanation for the increase in reports (although not an absolute answer) may be attributed to the on-going education of the general public on their responsibilities to report suspicions of abuse or neglect," said Lori Walston, public information officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Local groups are also seeing an increase in child abuse cases. The Child Advocacy Center in Jacksonville says stress and a weak family support system too often drive parents to hurt their own kids.

"Deployments are very stressful for families, the economy, if they get out of the military, maybe not having very many job opportunities," said Beth Pogroszewski, child interview specialist with the Child Advocacy Center, part of the nonprofit Onslow County Partnership for Children.

The Child Advocacy Center interviews and medically evaluates physically and sexually abused children. Law enforcement and the district attorney's office are then able to use that information to prosecute offenders, said Pogroszewski.

Pogroszewski says it might get harder for the agency to get kids the help they need because the agency recently lost its biggest funding source, the Governor's Crime Commission, which provided 66 percent of its revenue. She says the advocacy center is doing the best it can to make up for it with fundraising and other sources of revenue.

Education is key to stopping child abuse, said Pogroszewski. She said it's important to limit the amount of time your kids are with adults they don't know, and teach them about their bodies from an early age.

"In situations where there is concern for the immediate safety of a child, the public should contact 911. For all other concerns about child abuse or neglect they should make the report to their local department of social services," said Walston.

The Jordan Institute says there were 99,011 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in July 1997, and 133,571 reported cases of child abuse in June 2012. More information can be found here: http://sasweb.unc.edu/cgi-bin/broker?_service=default&_program=cwweb.graReport.sas&county=North%20Carolina&label=&fn=ALLCHILD&format=html&entry=11

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