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Change the names, the crimes remain the same

May 18, 2017

To understand the globality of child abuse, consider the editorial that follows. It appeared Wednesday, May 17, in the York, Pa., Dispatch.

Change the names and specific statistics and it could have appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal, or the Lexington Herald-Leader. If that doesn’t trouble or frighten you, it should. It shows that we are failing our children; that we simply aren’t doing enough to protect them, to prevent and stop abuse.

It takes courage, commitment , nd will. It takes engagement, people to step outside the busyness of their own lives and existences to see, to notice the signs and symptoms of child abuse. It requires participation, a community where there isn’t your child or my child, but every child, and where we all look out for every child, where we all own the responsibility to be vigilant, to intervene or to report.

It’s not enough to keep wringing our hands and shaking our heads over the latest headline or broadcast. It’s time, for if not now, when do we say no more child abuse?

Here’s the editorial … change mentions of York County to Louisville, or New Albany, or Jeffersonville, and York County Office of Children, Youth and Families to Kentucky Child and Family Services or Indiana Department of Child Services, and it becomes local – and just as true.

From the York Dispatch:

Faces of children who died of child abuse in York County in 2016 tell a story of a complex set of issues that we must face — as a community.

In reporter David Weissman’s stories, “Child abuse reports continue rising in York County” and its follow up, “Faces of child abuse in York County,” we are left with the stark realization that child abuse is preventable, but we might not be doing the right things to help prevent it.

Because even if you are not personally affected by this horrific systemic social ill, know that your community is weakened and damaged each time a child is injured or dies at the hand of an abuser.

Based on population, York County received 20 reports and more than two substantiated reports per 1,000 children; both rates that are higher than the state average.

We must find the key set of solutions that address multiple factors before we can save our kids from neglect, despair and abuse.

It will take community and political will.

In a county where residents are engaged and passionate about issues, policies and lawmakers’ performance and initiatives — and where politics have been divisive — might we not band together for a cause on which we can all agree?

 Child abuse is preventable and must end.

Child-abuse reports have been increasing statewide since 2015, when rewritten laws took effect that redefined child abuse, expanded the list of mandatory reporters and streamlined the reporting process, among other changes.

The increase has put a strain on the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, which is dealing with high staff turnover and a large number of cases per caseworker, both of which are common among child-welfare offices.

CYF director Terry Clark said preventing child abuse is so challenging because an incident can flare up in a moment, and detecting when and how that will happen, for every child in York County, is not possible.

So we must fund our CYF properly, understand how mandated reporting has increased caseload for already-overworked staffers and come up with a solution that makes the process of reporting and investigating potentially dangerous situations more effective.

As a community, we must look at the causes from a social perspective; poverty, drug use, lack of parenting and general education put stress on parents who are ill-equipped to cope.

We are a community. We should not categorize poor, drug-addicted and uneducated parents as worthless, thereby designating their children to be worthless, too.

We must reach out with more determination to those who are sinking under the weight of survival. If you are worried about eating and keeping a roof over your head from moment to moment, you’re not getting the kind of support you need to support a child.

While child abuse doesn’t discriminate by socioeconomic or other factors, we know some of the stresses that can exacerbate a parent’s short fuse. Being a survivor of abuse is another factor.

As a community, we can do more to help. Contact your local and state representatives and tell them this issue is important to you; ask what they are doing and how you can help. Consider being a parenting mentor or donating time and money to organizations that support families — from food banks to health programs. There are many here in York County.

If each one of us took a step to prevent child abuse, just think of strides we might make.

It’s time for each of us, in our own way, to do one thing — large or small — to protect our precious children.