ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Members of the Onslow County community met Tuesday night to discuss the rising number of child abuse cases in their area.
“This is going on in the community,” said Tondrea Leach, Turning Adversity into Success for Children of Onslow lead organizer. “It’s not just behind closed doors, it’s everywhere.”
According to members of TASCO, child abuse in the county has been on the rise ever since COVID in 2020.
For instance, the group says there have been five child deaths associated with abuse or neglect in Jacksonville over the last three years. Four of those deaths were children under the age of one.
Leach says she believes that parents working a lot during the pandemic played a role in the surge in deaths.
“They were all stuck in the house, the kids weren’t in school so that did increase numbers of child abuse and neglect,” Leach said. “I will tell you, they didn’t have the coping skills. Sometimes we just need to know how to breathe.”
The goal throughout the town hall was to find ways to help reduce child abuse in the community.
TASCO’s role as the multidisciplinary task force group aimed to focus on teaching young parents how to be parents.
Former Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller says some of the parents coming from adverse childhood experiences don’t help them as guardians.
“A lot of times parents come from broken homes,” Miller said. “I think if we can reach out to them, to give the information that is so important for their children, then those children can be successful.”
While several residents and community leaders discussed their feelings about the increase in child abuse, Leach, unfortunately, was one of few people who could actually relate.
Like other children in Onslow County, she says she was abused and neglected by her parents, which is why she believes that helping parents is key.
“When I’m going out to train resiliency to help them, then make the difference in their child’s life,” Leach said. “That just keeps going and going like a snowball effect.”
According to data, 23.6 percent of households in North Carolina with two or more children are going through adverse childhood experiences.
Tuesday night’s town hall was the first of many to come. TASCO says they plan to start hosting child abuse meetings quarterly.