When investigating crimes against children, Rutherford County Sheriff's Detective Andrea Knox looks beyond the immediate needs to make sure youths have proper nutrition.
The children's safety and nutrition concerns investigators, said Knox, who works in the Family Crimes Unit.
With proper nutrition, children thrive, the detective said. Without it, vitality is loss and children can become susceptible to malnutrition.
Investigators chat with the child, asking what they had to eat then qualify the information with a quick check of the refrigerator, cabinets and trash that shows the type of food eaten.
Knox discussed nutrition as part of the Child Advocacy Center's campaign of "19 days of Activism for the Prevention of Child Abuse."
CAC Executive Director Sharon De Boer said the center works with community partners to fight child abuse in Rutherford and Cannon counties.
"Diverse organizations are working for a global transformation against child abuse and collaborating to bring awareness to the issues of malnutrition," De Boer said.
In her investigations, Knox learned many families don't equate malnutrition beyond a physical appearance. The effects of malnutrition include warning signs, seen and unseen.
Malnutrition encompasses sub-nutrition and obesity, she said. In either form, the body is imbalanced, lacking nutrients from protein, vitamins and minerals needed to thrive. The signs and symptoms include fatigue and negative brain development that affects children at school, play and rest.
"I promote the Rutherford County Health Department and its programs that educate parents on nutrition, inform families that Murfreesboro has dental offices that perform free teeth cleaning and inform families of community organizations that prepare meals," Knox said. "Rutherford County Schools offer free and reduced lunches while Davidson County offers free lunches to all children."
When investigating crimes against children, her response is to investigate the criminal element within the investigation. When working with multi-disciplines such as the Department of Children's Services, medical services, counseling agencies, advocates and meal providers, the team provides a greater service.
"My heart embraces 'the kids,' those with little to no voice," Knox said. "Meet the child where they are, but make an effort to restore them. Stop malnutrition."