Local agency plans several events to mark Child Abuse Prevention MonthWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A baby boy later named Alex Michael Cervantes was a few days old when he was submerged in water and strangled, his body left in a freezer when his parents moved out of their East Toledo rental.
Two-month-old Kalib Henderson and 6-month-old Noland Letellier died after being shaken while 6-month-old Avery Glynn Bacon was allegedly thrown against a hard surface, causing the skull fractures that killed him.
One-year-old Ke’Ondra Hooks was struck in the head by a stray bullet, killed by street violence while sleeping on the floor of her family’s Moody Manor apartment.
Siblings Paige Hayes, 10, Logan Hayes, 7, and Madalyn Hayes, 5, were killed by their grandmother and uncle in a murder-suicide using carbon monoxide inside a vehicle in a West Toledo garage.
Five-month-old Ella Thomas drowned in a bathtub and 4-year-old Taevion Maulsby died of smoke inhalation from a fire started by playing with matches in the Old South End.
These 10 Lucas County children will be remembered at a memorial set for 11:30 a.m. April 19 at Lucas County Children Services (LCCS), 705 Adams St. The annual ceremony remembers those younger than 18 who died of abuse, neglect or street violence during the past year.
LCCS Executive Director Dean Sparks said 10 children is the most to be memorialized in one year since the agency started doing memorials about a dozen years ago. In 2011, three Lucas County teens were killed as the result of street violence and none died of abuse or neglect.
“It’s sad,” Sparks said. “It is profoundly somber for all of us. We do what we do because we want to protect kids. That’s our mission in life. We think it’s important to take the time to stop and remember and to commit ourselves anew to doing everything we can to prevent child abuse. Those 10 deaths were absolutely preventable.”
April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month and April 10 is Ohio’s second annual Wear Blue Day.
“People need to know they are not alone in caring for kids,” said LCCS Public Information Officer Julie Malkin. “It’s simply getting the word out that it’s important to be passionate about this.”
LCCS Assessment Manager Cary Brown said she hopes seeing widespread community support might encourage someone to report suspected abuse or neglect. The agency’s hotline, (419) 213-CARE (2273), is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reports can be left anonymously.
“If I see my cubicle mate doing it and a neighbor doing it, I might be the one to make that report and intervene before a child is seriously hurt because I know there are other people in the community who care,” Brown said.
Sparks said many people don’t report suspicions because they convince themselves the adult won’t really hurt the child or they feel it’s none of their business.
“People have a hard time imagining anyone harming their children, especially if it’s someone in their family or their neighborhood, but if you have a suspicion, call us or call local law enforcement,” Sparks said. “It’s better to call and it not be right than for a child to be harmed.”
Brown agreed, noting that LCCS had little or no prior involvement with the families of the 10 children killed.
“That fact reminds me that we depend on families, neighbors, community members and professionals to tell us these things are happening. Someone has to call and tell us,” Brown said. “I would err on the side of caution, err on the side of safety for that child.”
In 2012, LCCS received 4,959 referrals involving 7,347 children. Investigations determined 822 were abused or neglected, a 40 percent increase over 2011, according to the agency’s annual report. Forty-nine percent of investigations were for alleged physical abuse, 36 percent for neglect, 13 percent for sexual abuse and 2 percent for emotional abuse.
The highest rate of referral (referrals per 1,000 child residents) was in the 43604 ZIP code, followed by 43605 and 43608. The highest number of referrals came from the 43605 ZIP code followed by 43609.
“Some parts of our community have more resources than others, both financially and service-wise, where you would have a better ability to get help without coming to the attention of our system,” Brown said. “There’s probably areas of the community that think it doesn’t happen here, that it only happens in the central city. But drugs, alcohol and physical violence is not just in the central city; it happens everywhere.”
Of new cases opened in 2012, 40 percent of families were white, 32 percent were African-American and 25 percent were multiracial, according to the report.
Almost a third of the children (29 percent) remained in the home while issues were worked through, a third (34 percent) stayed with relatives and nearly a third (27 percent) went to foster homes, Malkin said.
Twenty-four percent of referrals came from social services, 24 percent from relatives, friends or neighbors, 16 percent from law enforcement, 15 percent anonymously, 13 percent from schools and 5 percent from medical personnel.
One area Brown said LCCS has been seeing an increase is with children affected by heroin addiction, whether through parental drug use or children born addicted to the drug or the prescription treatment drug methadone. From September 2012 to March 2013, 48 children were removed from Lucas County homes because of heroin use, including 15 infants who were born addicted and must stay in the hospital for up to a month to be weaned off the drug.
Mental health issues is another area seeing an increase, Brown said.
Families involved with LCCS aren’t necessarily “bad people,” Brown said.
“Most of the families we see really love their kids and want to be able to take care of them; most of our parents want to be good parents, but life circumstances are such that they can’t do it without resources that we can give them at this point in time,” Brown said.
Brown said the rewards of her job outweigh the stress and heartbreak.
“People say, ‘Oh I couldn’t do what you do,’ but the ability to make a difference has really gotten me through all these years,” Brown said. “We have the ability on a daily basis to make a difference in children’s lives. I’ve been doing this 25 years and I still feel that as I come to work every day.”
LCCS’ website, lucaskids.net, offers tips for recognizing child abuse or neglect and information about becoming a foster parent.
LCCS is encouraging people wearing blue April 10 to post photos on the agency’s Facebook page, tweet photos to @LucasCoOHKids or email photos to email@example.com.
“Every year 1,700 kids die in the U.S. from child abuse or neglect. That’s epidemic stuff,” Sparks said. “All of us who are going to be putting on blue are saying we are going to be doing everything we can to prevent child abuse in our community. We want all of Lucas County and Ohio to be blue that day. We’re all going to stand united on behalf of kids.”
Toledo Council member urges support for Wear Blue Day
Toledo City Council will vote at its April 2 meeting on a resolution encouraging residents to participate in Wear Blue Day on April 10.
The second annual event, organized by Lucas County Children Services (LCCS), is meant to “unify our community in a commitment to keep children safe from being abused and neglected,” according to the resolution. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Child abuse and neglect continues to be a concern in the Toledo area and members of Toledo City Council urge our community to stand up to protect our most precious resource, our children,” the resolution reads.
“It’s very important because we need to eradicate child abuse in our community,” said Councilman George Sarantou, the resolution’s sponsor. “Every day we’re reminded of child abuse in Toledo and throughout Northwest Ohio. It’s very important to urge people to be aware of it, report it and do something about it. It just can’t be tolerated. Children are very innocent and they certainly deserve to live in a positive environment and not go through child abuse, which as we know can have lifelong negative effects on a human being.”
Tags: Alex Michael Cervantes, Avery Glynn Bacon, Dean Sparks, Ella Thomas, George Sarantou, Julie Malkin, Kalib Henderson, Ke’Ondra Hooks, Logan Hayes, Lucas County CHildrens Services, Madalyn Hayes, Noland Letellier, Paige Hayes, Taevion Maulsby, Wear Blue Day