120 North 13th Street
Fort Smith, AR, 72901



In consideration of Child Abuse Awareness/Sexual Assault Awareness month, The United Way of Fort Smith Area will be hosting a community awareness event called Keeping Kids Safe. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, along with The Crisis Intervention Center, The Hamilton House, The Morgan Nick Foundation and criminal prosecutors will be providing expert insight into the alarming reality of crimes against children, child exploitation and sexual assault. This panel of experts will address current reporting mandates, newest legislation, local resources, education, prevention, and how agencies work together to help victims and their families. “Children are our greatest resource to help secure a successful future. Unfortunately, they are also an extremely vulnerable population. The public needs to know that law enforcement agencies, schools and non-profit agencies have a strong  partnership and work together to make sure that every child in every community feels safe,” says a representative of the Alma Police Department. “Events like this bring awareness to the public and strengthen local partnerships. These two things are key in protecting and saving lives.”

“Our goal is to educate the public on the issue and let them know that multiple agencies are working together to address the tragedy,” says Penni Burns, Vice President of Resource Development for United Way. “We have more than a dozen nonprofit, state and local agencies that have a tremendous responsibility when it comes to the safety and well-being of children. And these agencies have to work responsibly with the local school districts and the families of the victims. We want all of them to have an event where they can come together, have some productive discussion, and share their resources with the public,” she adds. “We encourage everyone to make an effort to stop by and see the great efforts that are being made by our community to keep our kids safe.”

Author and human rights activist Debby Schriver will also be in attendance. She contributes a unique perspective on child exploitation. She has interviewed multiple survivors who were victims of childhood exploitation while their families were involved in cults. She is currently establishing a nonprofit to help survivors have ample resources and access to appropriate counseling. Her latest book, Whispering in the Daylight, the Children of Tony Alamo Ministries and Their Journey to Freedom aims to bring awareness to the persistence of cults in our society and how survivors are finding success.

The event will be held on April 24th at the Alma Community Center at 114 Column Lane East and will be moderated by the United Way of Fort Smith Area and the Alma Police Department. Panel discussions and public input will be from 2:30 to 4 pm. Debby Schriver will address the room and offer a book signing from 4 to 4:30. Light refreshments will be served and the public in invited and encouraged to attend.

Any agency interested in providing resource materials may contact Penni Burns at 479-782-1311.

The United Way of Fort Smith Area unites people and resources in a six county area to make lasting, impactful change through a collaboration with 34 local Community Partner Agencies.