By Ashley Conroy - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - April is child abuse awareness month, and the Department of Human Services (DHS) held a forum Wednesday to educate the public.
The keynote speaker and former drug abuser, Kacey Hartfield-Walker, shared her story of how she became addicted at the age of 18.
By 21, Walker said she was pregnant, but she didn't stop using drugs. After she gave birth, DHS stepped in.
"He and I both tested positive for cocaine at his birth, and that is when DHS took custody of my son," said Walker.
Walker's case was one of many forms of child abuse according to state law. Other forms include anything from physical and sexual abuse, to child exploitation, to various forms of neglect.
Director of Prevention for Children and Family Services Kate McMillin at the Department of Human Services said when these type of cases occur, DHS steps in.
"We get them connected with the resources out in the community so they know how to go and get help," said McMillin.
McMillin said the goal is to help put families' lives back together.
"We provide counseling with the family, concrete services, educating the families on what their expectations should be with the children," said McMillin.
Walker's mother, Glenda Hartfield, said after her daughter went off to college, she suspected something wasn't right but knew there was only so much she could do to intervene.
"We don't always see or want to see what our kids our doing and how bad it is," Hartfield said.
Walker's mother can now say she is proud that her daughter has turned her life around and has advice for any parent going through a similar situation.
"Don't wait. Don't blind your eyes to it. Take advantage of whatever resources are available out there, and there are a lot of resources," said Hartfield.
DHS said they are currently in need of additional foster families for those children who cannot go back to their home because of abuse reasons.
They said if you suspect anyone is a victim of child abuse, call 1-800-222-8000, and report it immediately.
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