A new report from the Department of Human Services shows the numbers from the last fiscal year to be about 8,500.
Cecile Blucker, director of the DHS Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), encourages all Arkansans to work to reduce that number during April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The number of true cases has increased every year for the last few years from 6,701 in state fiscal year 2009 to 7,831 in 2010 and 8,573 in 2011.
"My division is actively engaged in efforts to prevent child abuse by helping strengthen families through an array of supportive services and by telling people about what is happening to the children in their communities," Blucker said. "There are things that friends, neighbors and relatives can do to help families as well."
DCFS offered supportive services like family counseling to 2,451 children in 1,023 families last fiscal year in an effort to prevent abuse and neglect in at-risk families.
Blucker and others kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday at a press conference at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock. She told those gathered at the press conference that parents and caregivers who have the appropriate supports are more likely to provide safe and healthy homes for their children.
"Being a parent isn't easy," Blucker said. "So offer to baby-sit, help with a chore or to just listen if a friend or relative needs someone to talk to."
She also encouraged parents to make sure the people who care for their children while the parents are working or away can safely and lovingly do so. Parents of infants, Blucker said, should be especially careful about making sure that caregivers know that it is never OK to shake a baby.
Communities groups, non-profit organizations and government agencies also can assist by helping parents develop skills and identify and provide resources they need to understand and meet their children's emotional, physical and developmental needs.
Heather McDaniel, 35, said at the press conference that she knows first-hand that support can make a difference for parents who are struggling and at risk of abusing or neglecting their children. Her children were placed in foster care as a result of neglect. After several ups-and-downs and more than a year, McDaniel was able to regain custody of her four children and the family is thriving.
She encouraged parents to seek out support when they need it.
"There are lots of resources available," McDaniel said. "I didn't realize all the help that was out there until I lost my children. Parents don't have to lose their children to take advantage of that support."
To report suspected abuse or neglect, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964.
Click here to learn more about preventing abuse.
Click here for the Department of Human Services Facebook page where you'll find tips, warning signs and other information about abuse and neglect being posted all month long.