FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A 2022 report by the Department of Child Services revealed Allen County had the most child deaths from abuse and neglect. The reasons for abuse and neglect come in many forms, but according to Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, it all can be prevented.

SCAN’s Daybreak Crisis Homes provide families in crisis emergencies with short-term care. The free program has been around for more than 30 years, and just knowing about it can be the first step to stopping child abuse and neglect.

“I always think about it. Parenting is the hardest job. And when I moved to Fort Wayne I didn’t really have a whole lot of resources. And if I was in crisis, what would have happened to my children? And I think that’s the power of respite,” says Dee Szyndrowski, CEO of SCAN.

For up to 7 days, parents can reach out to SCAN to provide respite care for children when they’re in need of Daybreak Crisis Homes. Children are placed into a state-licensed home, and there is open communication between the foster family, parent, and SCAN while the program.

“We recently had a family use the service. They had, the mother was going to have a baby and didn’t have much support for the other kids. And that makes it really tough when you’re about to do something as life-changing as giving birth, and you don’t have the support around you — to have an agency like Daybreak, like SCAN, steps in and say, “Hey, we can help support you. Your baby is going to be safe, you know it’s going to be safe, you don’t have anything to worry about,” says Destiny Erhardt, Healthy Families Supervisor with SCAN.

Erhardt used to work on the frontlines of Daybreak Crisis Homes. She now supports the program in another way — but she knows first-hand how valuable a program like this is.

“For me, it was life-changing. It was, “I got to take a break for a second. I could actually hear myself think and breathe.” So I would encourage anyone to get the help if they need it,” says Erhardt.

But recognizing you need help, and reaching out for it can be a tough first step.

“That’s what helps curb child abuse and neglect, is knowing your resources, being okay to ask for help, and understanding there are always people around to help you in any situation that you can. Because child abuse and neglect is a pressure cooker and it happens when we have no way out. And our emotions are building and we don’t know how to handle them appropriately. So this just curbs all of that and stops that from even happening,” says Szyndrowski.

Daybreak Crisis Homes can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 260-421-5004. The service is available for newborns up to 12 years old. Siblings over 12 are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

“If we continue to not only create respite homes and utilize Daybreak services, but we also continue to breakdown the stigma that it’s okay to ask for help, I think we will absolutely reduce the number of child abuse and neglect cases and deaths in Indiana, especially Allen County,” says Szyndrowski.

Currently, Daybreak Crisis Homes are available in Allen County because those are the only homes licensed by the state. SCAN says the service can open up to other counties should a family volunteer and become licensed. You can click here to learn more about Daybreak Crisis Homes or learn how to be a foster family for the program.