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Numbers increase as Joplin children need 'Safe Haven' - KOAM TV 7

Numbers increase as Joplin children need 'Safe Haven'

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The number of Joplin children in need of a Safe Haven increases.

The Children's Haven of Southwest Missouri offers free child care for families in a time of crisis.
We look at why they're expanding their services as the area rebuilds.

Stephanie Theis plays with little ones at the Children's Haven in Joplin. After May 22, the number of children in need of a Safe Haven is on the rise.

"We've increased in the number of kids we've seen by over 130 percent. Families showing up at the door, in crisis, actively looking for community support," says Stephanie Theis, Executive Director, Children's Haven.

Theis says the services and support they offer are vital as families rebuild their lives. Children's Haven works to reduce family stress and eliminate child abuse and neglect. Since the storm, additional beds are being set up as more kids arrive.

"During the day we're able to take more children than ever before and are working to meet the need in the community. So, we've continued to increase the number of kids that are here at the house. When families call, we're just trying to make things work," says Theis.

She says they're also working with the kids to help them outlet trauma from the tornado.

"The overall consensus in the Joplin community is that of hope and rebuilding for the future;  however, some families are up against some harsh realities," says Theis.

Children's services says an increase in family stress can lead to more cases of child abuse. Officials say there are several red flags that can indicate foul play.

"Behavior changes in a child, eating habits, just any changes," says Kathi Olson, Assistant Executive Director, Children's Center.

Olson says physical evidence like bruises can also be an indicator.

"If anyone suspects that a child is being abused, and all we have to do is suspect--we don't have to have hard evidence--you need to call the hotline number or call local law enforcement," says Olson.

She also says the best way to prevent child abuse is to communicate openly with your kids, know where they go, and utilize services like Children's Haven in times of crisis.

If you suspect anyone of child abuse or neglect, call children services. Their number is 1-800-392-3738.

If you'd like to donate to Children's Haven, you visit their website at http://www.childrenshaven-swmo.org/Partner_With_Us.php

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