Two new programs working to prevent child abuse

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Here's a shocking statistic: Child abuse in South Mississippi is up 300 percent since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That's upsetting to anyone, but especially those who work with abused and neglected children.

"We have more children in custody, then we ever had before," said Hope Haven Executive Director Terry Latham.

But child advocates like Terry Latham are hopeful about two new child protection programs. One program will help better prosecute offenders. And it all begins with forensic interviews in a new child friendly play room at Hope Haven Children's Shelter.

"This is very important for kids. So any child that's been sexually or physically abused, now we have a specially equipped room, hidden microphones and cameras."

Most importantly, the interview is done by one, non-threatening person and it's only done once.

"They can be questioned one time and it's recorded to a disc and that keeps the kids from the trauma of having to be questioned over and over again by different people."

These forensic interviews are now allowed in court as testimony, and that helps better prosecute offenders.

"Because now you don't have the problem with the child said this one time and this the other time."

Latham said expensive efforts in the past to keep children from even becoming victims have failed.

"For years, the preventive measures against abuse is trying to teach children to stop from being abused. 'Good touch, bad touch.' All those things, and it hasn't worked."

But he is very hopeful about the new national program "Darkness To Light." It aims to prevent child abuse by educating kids and training adults who interact with children.

"We have three trained facilitators. It will aimed at the schools, civic organizations and summer camps, every single place where there is interaction between adults and kids. Those are possible individuals who we are looking to go train."

Now, caring adults are needed to step up and receive this free training. They are taking applications now for the free "Darkness To Light" training for your school, camp, church or any group that interacts with children.

Learn more about the program at or by calling 1-866-FOR-LIGHT.

You can also reach Terry Latham at (228) 466-6395 or email him at You can also visit the shelter's website:

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