CRESTVIEW — April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and FamiliesFirst Network of Lakeview Center wants the community to know how they can help keep children safe from harm.

Last year, the Florida Abuse Hotline referred 11,000 calls from the four-county area to the Department of Children and Families for investigation to determine if children could safely remain in their homes. In those instances where it was not safe, FFN received the call to help find homes.

FFN services help ensure the safety of children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. The agency also works with biological parents to provide counseling, education and treatment so that the families can reunite. However, when a judge deems that it’s not safe for a child to return home, FFN will seek a permanent, adoptive home with a relative, close friend or adoptive family.

The community also can play a role by fostering, adopting and reporting abuse. Currently, there is a great need for therapeutic, medically complex and behavioral foster care to help children who have experienced severe trauma. Therapeutic foster parents receive extensive evidence-based training, weekly in-home therapist appointments, 24/7 on-call support, monthly reimbursements and 10 paid respite days each year. 

"We provide tremendous support to our foster parents," Director of Administration and External Affairs Jenn Petion said. "We are there for them 24/7."

Interested community members should call the following numbers:

Therapeutic foster care - 860-4259 
Traditional foster care - 453-7779 
Adoption - 469-3847  
Report abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Florida Abuse Hotline at 800.962.2873. For the deaf call 800-453-5145. If it is an emergency, please call 911.