Wednesday update: Two new COVID-19 deaths reported in York County

April declared Child Abuse Prevention Month during forum to commemorate York County victims

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
York City Mayor Michael Helfrich reads aloud the anonymous names of child abuse victims during a ceremony presented by the Children's Advocacy Center on Thursday, April 1. Tina Locurto photo.

Jane Doe, 5, referred for sexual abuse.

John Doe, 9, referred for sexual abuse.

Jane Doe, 16, referred for human trafficking.

These were among the 614 anonymous names of York County children in 2020 who experienced a form of abuse, read aloud during a public gathering Thursday in York City to commemorate child abuse victims.

"It's our hope that as people hear those names, that they're impacted with the idea that this is an actual child," said Deborah Harrison, the executive director of the York County Children’s Advocacy Center. "There's a face behind that name. There's a child who's experienced that trauma."

A crowd of about 50 gathered at noon at Cherry Lane Court in York City for the reading of the names and to hear a proclamation by York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, who announced April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich reads aloud the anonymous names of child abuse victims during a ceremony presented by the Children's Advocacy Center on Thursday, April 1. Tina Locurto photo.

Helfrich called upon families, businesses, social service agents, schools, faith organizations and law enforcement agencies to form partnerships to create child abuse prevention programs.

"We hereby proclaim April 2021 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in York City and York County," Helfrich said, "and urge our citizens to celebrate children, our greatest resource and the community leaders of tomorrow."

In addition, representatives from several organizations, including the York County Economic Alliance, the District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Children, Youth and Families, took turns reading out the names, ages and reasons for referral of children who sought help from the York County Children’s Advocacy Center.

In 2020, the York County Children’s Advocacy Center served hundreds of children who experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, human trafficking, witness to violence and drug endangerment.

Deborah Harrison, the executive director of the York County Children’s Advocacy Center, speaks to a crowd during an event to commemorate child abuse victims on Thursday, April 1. Tina Locurto photo.

Harrison said residents might be shocked to learn that children as young as 3 have experienced a form of abuse.

Additionally, she said people might be surprised to hear the handful of cases of human trafficking that comes out of York County.

"People tend to think that doesn't happen here — that it's something that happens in city ports," Harrison said. "It does in fact happen here."

York County residents are encouraged to help prevent child abuse by taking free courses offered by the York County Children’s Advocacy Center.

A crowd of about 50 gathered at noon at Cherry Lane Court in York City to recognize victims of abuse and to hear a procolomation by York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, who announced April 2021 as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Tina Locurto photo.

Available online and in-person, the classes can be found by visiting the center's website at www.yorkcac.org/.

Anyone can report suspected child abuse — not just those who are mandated to, Harrison added.

Individuals can report child abuse by calling 1-800-932-0313.

"You don't have to be certain, if you just have a suspicion you can report it," Harrison said. "You might be the hero, you might be the one person who notices something and makes that phone call."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.