Rainbow House holds fair raising awareness of child abuse and neglect
COLUMBIA — Community members came together Saturday in honor of Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month, to draw attention to the problem and talk about local resources.
Rainbow House, a group that serves abused and neglected children and families in crisis, organized the event. There were bouncy houses, a face painting station and booths offering more information about programs in the community.
Rainbow House offers three community programs: a Child Advocacy Center, Children's Emergency Shelter and Homeless Youth Program.
"We offer services for the investigation of child abuse and neglect, the interdiction in child abuse and neglect cases for our Children's Emergency Shelter," Mark Kirchhoff, coordinator of Rainbow House's Homeless Youth Center, said. "Also, the cases where families and youth are experiencing homelessness, to try to be a transitional living program as well as a housing and shelter for those individuals."
Kirchhoff said events like Saturday's help build a connection with the community, and let people know what Rainbow House is all about.
"We like to say we couldn't do what we do without the community support we have," Kirchhoff said. "So it's really important to give back."
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of child abuse and neglect cases, according to Kirchhoff. But that, he said, could be because of increased reporting.
"We like to think we're helping. You know, the need has been there. The number of cases especially of child abuse and neglect reporting has gone up," Kirchhoff said. "I think there's more awareness around it and more willingness to report. So I think that's one of the reasons we're seeing the numbers increase."
Kirchhoff said a lot of the work Rainbow House does is to make sure the children involved are being taken care of, and have their voices heard.
"We've done a lot of work, especially with our Child Advocacy Center, in the investigation and prosecution of those," Kirchhoff said. "Working with law enforcement, working with investigators, working with prosecutors to make sure the child who has disclosed abuse and neglect is well represented, to make sure their story is being shared in the right way and that they're not taken advantage of in the system."