Protecting children: Everyone’s responsibilityWritten by Dean Sparks | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We have come around once again to Child Abuse Prevention Month. Each year at this time we pause to remember the children our community has lost to abuse, neglect and senseless violence. We also use the occasion to remind ourselves — and each other — that child abuse can and should be prevented.
We have an obligation to watch out for the parents and children in our lives. By caring for each other and helping parents in need, we create a safety net that protects children from becoming unfortunate victims, whether it’s of conscious abuse or pure neglect.
Of the children we will remember at our agency’s annual Child Memorial on April 29, none were lost to physical abuse. That’s important, and encouraging. However, it’s not realistic to believe we have ended child abuse in our community. Instead, perhaps this is a signal that we are becoming more aware of the price we all pay when we allow child abuse to occur.
In 2010, Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) received nearly 4,500 calls of suspected maltreatment involving 6,500 children. Almost half of the calls were for physical abuse. Of all of the children who were confirmed victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, nearly half of them were five years old or younger — our most vulnerable victims. While abuse occurred throughout the county, it was most likely to occur in neighborhoods that experience a number of social problems. Our community must support programs and services that help parents be good, safe parents. We need to make sure that quality day care and medical care are accessible to them, and that parenting classes are available for those who need them. But most of all, we have to make sure our young parents are connected to family, friends and neighbors. Those “kin” are the ones that teach young parents to make good decisions and handle tough situations, and when things get rough, wrap their loving arms around them.
Lucas County has been fortunate to have great family resources in our neighborhoods — community centers, Help Me Grow, health clinics and houses of worship. If you know of a parent who is having trouble caring for his or her children or keeping them safe, call us. We can work with that family and connect them with resources that can point them in the right direction. But you must be strong, first, and be willing to make the call.
Our community has experienced tragedy. We lost three children to drowning last year, and two teens died due to senseless street violence. The three drowning victims were very, very young, ranging from less than a year old to just 3 years old. Each of these children drowned under very different circumstances, but their deaths are equally tragic. The two young men who died lived in different parts of town, but both succumbed to random shootings that are part of everyday life for too many residents of our community. Their deaths remind us that we need to keep our children close, no matter how old they are.
Every April, as we remember the children we’ve lost during the past year, I hope and pray that we don’t have to gather together the following year to memorialize even more young victims. Let us all recommit to making Lucas County a safe place for children and a community that supports strong families.
LCCS hosts its annual Child Memorial on April 29 at 11:30 a.m. at its offices, 705 Adams St. in Downtown Toledo. The community is urged to attend. Report child abuse 24/7 at (419) 213-2273. You can remain anonymous.
Dean Sparks is executive director of Lucas County Children Services.