Biloxi conference focuses on preventing child abuse

Biloxi conference focuses on preventing child abuse

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The reported crime against 3-year-old Zander Saucier happened just as hundreds of child advocates were gathering in Biloxi to learn how to better identify and investigate child abuse cases in Mississippi.

The conference offers training for more than 300 people across the state who work on child abuse cases.

Many people in the room heard about Zander for the first time. For one woman, every child abuse case stirs up emotions.

"It makes me mad. I have to say, there's sadness. And my case, I'm personally affronted by the disregard of a child's life, a human life perhaps, but certainly a child's life who has no recourse and no ability to fight back," said Nancy Hungerford.

Hungerford is a board member of the Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi, host of the third annual Child Abuse Conference in Biloxi. Child advocates included judges, police officers, schools, mental health providers and child protective service workers.

The group focused on identifying, responding and investigating abuse allegations.

"That's the number one not re-traumatize the child. Get to the truth of the case, and then provide the services that are going to help that child and the family move forward," said Hungerford.

The goal is to learn the latest and most effective techniques to help children who have suffered abuse or witnessed violence in their homes.

"It's always refreshing to learn new things, to hear new things from different people, and give you a different perspective on how you can resolve some of the problems that are going on," said victim assistance coordinator Fran Brown.

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, there were 7,415 confirmed abuse victims in Mississippi in 2013. The training can help the child advocates speak up for children in hopes of preventing cases like Zander's.

"How many are we missing? How many more are there that we don't know about? What can we do at this point to salvage this situation, but also to learn from it?" asked Hungerford.

The theme of the conference is "One Loud Voice", and it continues Thursday. Topics include the ethics of dealing with child abuse, and a panel of judges will field questions about the court system's handling of abuse cases.

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