Every 10 seconds in the United States there is a report of child abuse. By the time you finished that sentence, another one, on average, was made again. It isn’t just the cases that are reported – it’s the ones that are not. An estimated 3 million cases of child abuse are reported every year.
During this month and throughout the year, Marion County Children Services works to raise awareness of child abuse and what each of us can do to keep children safe. A field of 647 pinwheels will be planted in front of the agency by Marion County children, in observance of Child Abuse Awareness Month. Always popular with children, the pinwheels represent the number of child abuse investigations conducted by the agency in 2010 as well as celebrate the “voices” who have spoken up on behalf of children by reporting abuse.
We are all responsible for the protection of the children in the Marion community. Each of us needs to consider this commitment in making this a better place for families to flourish. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse by strengthening families and communities. By reaching out, you can truly help prevent child abuse. How do you reach out? Who do you reach out to? Where and when do you reach out?
Reaching out may mean calling or visiting that family down the street whose young children you see running around unsupervised and dressed inappropriately for the weather. It might be offering to baby sit, providing clothing or transportation to a clothing locker, or helping them get information on community based resources.
Reaching out may mean taking a box of diapers to a new mother in your church and talking to her about how frustrating it can be coping with a newborn. You could let her know to call you if she needs a break from the baby or even just someone to talk to.
Reaching out can be as subtle as listening to a frustrated parent, or it can be as overt as organizing a get-together to talk about the needs of families in your neighborhood.
Reaching out means taking the initiative to offer help. Supporting and strengthening families has the greatest impact by far on the prevention of child abuse. Marion County Children Services is a government agency mandated by law to protect children from abuse. In 2010, we served 1,777 children and 813 families through various services. That is one out of every 9 children in Marion County! However, these are only the children and families that were brought to our attention through the reporting of abuse. How many were not?
Some may think that we should intervene sooner, which seems like a logical way to protect children. But no one wants a government agency intruding into private family life without reasonable cause. The state does and should respect the rights of parents to raise their children and run their families the way they see fit. Marion County Children Services supports and works to strengthen the families of children who have been abused. But by the time we get involved, the unfortunate reality is the children have already suffered.
If more individuals would step forward and offer to help families they know who are struggling, the impact would be phenomenal. And if you don’t know any families personally, you can help by getting involved with community organizations such as Heart of Ohio Mentoring, Boys and Girls Club, area churches and other programs that support children and families.
April is a time to celebrate the important role the community plays in protecting children. Everyone’s participation and commitment is critical. Instead of looking the other way, reach out to families in need and report concerns of abuse!
To report suspected cases of abuse or neglect in Marion County, call 740-389-SAFE.