Abandoned boy in Mississippi Goodwill prompts Christmas gift giving, shines light on child abuse in pandemic era

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National media coverage of a 2-year-old boy abandoned in a Goodwill in Mississippi helped shed light on the issues of child abuse and neglect during the pandemic. It has also caused an increase in inquiries nationwide from those wishing to purchase Christmas gifts for the boy and other children being treated at an advocacy center in the small town of Southaven.

Mississippi Child Protective Services (CPS) declined to comment on the specific case involving the 2-year-old boy, who was taken into their custody after being dropped off at a Goodwill in Southaven, Miss., around 9:40 a.m. Monday . Police said he was left with a change of clothes and a note that read, “abandoned child…no phone number for mum.” Officials said Goodwill staff immediately called 911.

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In an update, Police Chief Macon Moore said the boy has been identified, although his name is not released, and will be reunited with his family when the CPS “determines it is appropriate”. A suspect was arrested across state lines in Memphis, Tennessee. Surveillance video at the Goodwill showed a masked man holding the child’s hand before leaving the boy and driving away with a woman in a red vehicle.

The CPS said it had received an “astonishing” increase in calls from across the country since the story was picked up by national media, and the Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center in Southaven, a town of 55,000 people in the county of DeSoto, was handling the case.

(Southaven Police Department)

Sally Williams, Executive Director of healing hearts, told Fox News it was the first time in two years that she worked at the center that they handled a case involving an abandoned child in such a blatant way. She said that last year her staff of 13 had a caseload of around 600 children who experienced situations ranging from abuse, neglect, drug endangerment and those who witnessed some kind of violent crime.

“Because of the pandemic, because of the holiday season, tensions are high, stress is high – you have stress at home, stress at work, stress with family – so reach out to each other to others and try to help one another,” Williams said, explaining that it’s crucial to know how to spot signs of abuse and how to report suspected cases. “Know your local resources in the community.”

“We say we give a voice to the bravest kids we know,” she continued. “What I would like people to understand is that there is always something to learn about the things that are going on in your community, and child abuse, neglect is not something people like talking, but it’s something that’s still real and still happening and we have to do everything we can to protect our children.”

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Although the non-profit organization has received an increased number of calls about the boy since the story broke, Williams said their holiday toy drive would benefit any children whose cases are being considered at the center.

“It’s something we like to do to bring a bit of joy to people – to take some of that pressure off like ‘What am I going to do this year at Christmas? ‘” Williams said.

She said the center is always tallying up the many gifts and donations they’ve received over the holiday season, adding that “the community and the generosity of people has been absolutely amazing.”

“We are truly blessed with our community and their contribution because, like many nonprofits, we depend on the community to help us do our work, she said. “We can’t thank them enough and everyone in this community has been a champion for kids this year.”

For the past five years, Healing Hearts has partnered with Mississippi Child Protective Services for an annual Christmas Project to benefit children in foster care or other families in need. This year, they are organizing a collection of toys, as well as a collection of coats and pajamas.

In the past, people have also embraced children’s wish lists, and the center is accepting donations year-round for Tyler’s Closet and Aubrey’s Closet – undisclosed locations named after children who died at the hands of abuse – which store clothing, diapers, toys and other items that law enforcement and child protective services partners can use if a child needs to be taken into custody immediately .

The center partners with law enforcement, child protective services, medical and mental health providers and the district attorney’s office “to ensure healing and justice for families and children.” they deserve,” Williams said. These partners can then refer children to the center for forensic interviews, which are conducted by staff trained in conducting “undirected and non-invasive” interviews where a child can come and tell their story once so that he did not relive any type of traumatic event,” she said.

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Law enforcement and child protective services are present and watch the interviews to look for safety issues, as well as any investigative signs they may need for their case. The center also employs family advocates who meet with the non-abusive caregivers of the children who have come to ensure they have all available resources regarding medical services, mental health, victim compensation, groceries, as well as other tangible items ranging from clothing to diapers to food.

Three mental health therapists are on staff for children whose families may not have insurance or cannot afford treatment.

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