The University of South Carolina Upstate’s Center for Child Advocacy Studies is hosting its sixth annual conference, A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse through Advocacy and Education, on Friday, March 27 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the USC Upstate campus. Nearly 400 participants are expected to attend the conference, which will be held in the University Readiness Center.
“We bring national experts to Spartanburg to examine pressing issues related to child abuse and neglect,” said Dr. Jennifer Parker, director of the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center. “Our attendees are front-line child protection professionals and community leaders. With a diverse program and audience, we can obtain a deeper understanding of the complexities of child maltreatment and improve our response and prevention efforts.
According to recent statistics, one in four girls is sexually abused and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. Child maltreatment, however, involves more than just physical and sexual abuse; it also includes emotional abuse and failure to meet the basic needs of the child.
The state of South Carolina ranks 45th in the United States for overall child well-being, and high rates of all forms of maltreatment in Spartanburg County have far-reaching consequences. Many serious and costly youth problems, such as teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, school failure and substance abuse are preceded by child abuse and neglect. Furthermore, child abuse and neglect can disrupt early brain development, leading to increased risk of lifelong emotional and physical problems. If we direct our efforts to education and prevention of child maltreatment, then we can effectively eliminate many of these later developing problems.
According to Parker, the conference is a major initiative to increase community awareness of the problem and to provide ongoing community education. It is designed to target a broad audience of concerned citizens and professionals, including healthcare personnel, legal experts, the faith community, counselors, educators, social workers, victim service professionals, and community members.
Dr. Robert Block, emeritus professor of pediatrics and immediate past Daniel C. Plunket chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa will open the conference with a presentation on Toxic Stress and Responding by Building Resiliency.
Victor Vieth, executive director emeritus of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, will speak at the Conference. He has presented at the annual conference every year since 2010.
Vieth has trained thousands of child protection professionals from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and 17 countries on numerous topics pertaining to child abuse investigations, prosecutions and prevention. Vieth has been instrumental in implementing 22 state and international forensic interview training programs and dozens of undergraduate and graduate programs on child maltreatment. He also is the author of Unto the Third Generation, an initiative that outlines the necessary steps we must all take to eliminate child abuse in America in three generations.
“We can significantly reduce most forms of violence by implementing a series of common sense, long overdue reforms,” Vieth said. “Many of these reforms are already unfolding in South Carolina through the work of cutting edge child protection professionals. We believe the changing landscape of South Carolina will one day lead to a changing landscape everywhere.”
The event’s other expert speakers include:
- Daniel Garrabrant, special agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Dr. Nancy Henderson, medical director of the Division of Forensic Pediatrics at Greenville Hospital System
- Dr. Anna Salter, consultant, Wisconsin Department of Corrections
- Sgt. Jim Sears, law enforcement officer with more than 30 years at the Irving Police Department