News Briefs: Lake Mansfield, Housatonic playground summer hours; DA’s office supports children

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office asks the public to be vigilant in reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.

Town announces summer hours for Lake Mansfield, Housatonic playground

Great Barrington — Beginning Saturday, June 13, lifeguards and park attendants will be on site at Lake Mansfield to manage visitor numbers and provide swimmers with safety supervision. The Housatonic playground will be staffed beginning Monday, July 6. Guidelines for social distancing will be in place at both locations.

The lake will be staffed from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week through Sunday, Aug. 30. All visitors must check in with park staff upon arrival, and abide by the following guidelines:

  • A two-hour limit will be enforced for all visitors during operating hours;
  • No more than 10 people are allowed in one visitor group or blanketed area;
  • Patrons over the age of 2 must wear face masks unless in the water or on blanketed areas;
  • Six feet of space must be maintained between patron groups in and out of the water;
  • Patrons must limit lake visits to no more than two times per week during operating hours to allow others to enjoy the park;
  • Parking is limited at Lake Mansfield and will be monitored by police; and
  • All other park rules apply.

The Housatonic playground will open Monday, July 6 with staffing Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 14, with the following guidelines:

  • Park staff will supervise park activities and oversee adherence to social distancing guidelines;
  • Organized games and activities that can be managed within guidelines will be permitted, and a schedule of such events will be provided shortly;
  • Masks are required for children over age 2 when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained; and
  • Play structures will remain closed.

Visitors to both parks are encouraged to provide their own drinking water, as fountains are closed.

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DA’s office continues efforts to protect vulnerable children despite decrease in abuse, neglect referrals

Pittsfield — The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office Child Abuse Unit and partners in the multidisciplinary Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network team remain in place to identify and hold perpetrators accountable while providing trauma-informed treatment to children across the county even with a concerning decrease in child abuse reports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office noticed a 52% decrease in reports of child abuse in the last two months compared with this time last year and a 33% decrease in newly opened investigations since the start of the year. Statewide, the Department of Children and Families reports a 51% decrease in child abuse reports.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office asks the public to be vigilant in reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office investigates hundreds of cases of child abuse each year, prosecutes perpetrators, assists victims and their families in navigating the criminal justice system, makes referrals to community resources, and conducts crime-prevention programming.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office utilizes a Children’s Advocacy Center model in partnership with Berkshire County Kids’ Place. The team consists of prosecutors, law enforcement, forensic interviewers, social workers from DCF, and mental and physical health professionals.

School and daycare personnel are the eyes and ears of the community and file the majority of reports to DCF. Schools, daycares and camps have been closed, limiting interactions between children and trusted adults. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased job loss, substance use relapses, food insecurity and other stressors.

The public should keenly be aware of and consider the following signs of child abuse and call DCF’s At-Risk Hotline at (800) 792-5200 immediately to report suspected abuse. Reports can be anonymous.

Physical appearance: signs of bruises, marks, injuries, poor hygiene, or attire
Environment: signs of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or family dysfunction
Behavior and effect: change in mood or presentation, distress, or outcries of abuse
Engagement: changes in participation, interaction, and communication
Supervision: access to a responsible adult and their level of involvement