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Child abuse prevention draws extra focus in April

The tribe is promoting awareness of child abuse issues in April. (Image via Facebook)

The Seminole Tribe has planned a series of activities in April to bring more attention to child abuse prevention. The activities coincide with “National Child Abuse Prevention Month” which has been observed in April since 1983.

From April 18 to April 22, the Advocacy and Guardianship department’s tribal family and child advocates will encourage the tribal community to show support for child abuse prevention through a series of activities.

Advocacy and Guardianship is part of the tribe’s Health and Human Services department (HHS) and includes the Tribal Family and Child Advocacy (TFCA) program.

Angela Hardwick, a tribal family and child advocate on the Big Cypress Reservation, said the activities would include wearing a certain article of clothing on a particular day – socks, sports team jersey, superhero outfit and hat. There will also be a day designated to wear blue – the color that represents child abuse prevention. She said members of the department would also visit preschools and Boys and Girls Clubs to do activities, read stories and hand out ice cream.

Hardwick has been in her position at the tribe for about six years assisting in child abuse and domestic violence cases. She said cases end up in her department after a child protective investigator (CPI) receives a phone call through the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-ABUSE) or after the Seminole Police Department (SPD) is contacted. The CPI and SPD typically contact Advocacy and Guardianship so that an advocate is assigned to the case.

“We advocate for the family to make sure the case manager (CPI) stays within guidelines and that the family is treated fairly when being interviewed,” Hardwick said.

She said cases can involve domestic violence, emotional abuse, physical abuse, psychological neglect (lack of attention for the child or ignoring the child’s need of love and security), sexual abuse and environmental hazardous like an unclean home. For example, an advocate will go into a home and assess if the child feels safe and has running water and food. The department will then provide in home and out of home services depending on the case.

“We try to keep the family together and give them any assistance they need,” Hardwick said. “A parent might not be aware that a domestic violence situation is affecting the child, but you need to have that conversation [with the child] so you’re aware of what they’re hearing or might be thinking.”

Hardwick said counseling is available to tribal members for a range of issues, including domestic violence, drug abuse, mental illness, underdeveloped coping skills, relationship problems and poor communication skills. Advocacy and Guardianship works hand in hand with the tribe’s Center for Behavioral Health – which is also part of HHS – and often refers tribal members to its many services.

“With preventative measures, we can keep a situation from going to court or beyond,” Hardwick said.

Hardwick can be contacted by phone at (863) 983-5151, ext. 12347, or via email at

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at