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Ending, preventing child abuse key to our future

Last year, the Government Accountability Office initiated a study to delve into an epidemic that has swept the United States. The six-month study showed that there are more deaths attributed to child abuse and neglect than the H1N1 virus, food-borne illnesses, Toyota accelerator malfunctions, coal mining accidents and U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Although the investigation did show a decrease in reported death-related abuse cases since 2006, there are still more than 1,800 deaths every year due to parent or guardian neglect.

What ever happened to the children are the future? Where are parents failing? And why? Who is going to speak up for these forgotten children?

The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths is asking these difficult questions that no one seems to want to ask and demanding answers from local, state and federal lawmakers. The largest complaint presented by the coalition is the lack of media attention to child-abuse deaths, which, according the NCECAD, is the “No. 1 impediment to the enactment of needed federal and state reforms.” A seven-step national strategy has been presented but has failed to gain any momentum in the Congress, partially because of the program’s estimated $5 billion cost. “America can do better,” says Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association.

The project’s seven-point plan would:

  • Build upon the best of current child protection systems allowing the government to develop a strategy for stopping maltreatment deaths.
  • Increase federal and private funding for programs that help prepare expecting parents for parenthood.
  • Create national standards drawn from existing practices and policies for protecting children.
  • Modify confidentiality laws to allow policy makers, the press, and the public to better understand what protection policies and practices need to be improved in the aftermath of a child’s death.
  • Have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services standardize definitions and methodologies used to collect state data related to maltreatment deaths.
  • Conduct a public education campaign to encourage reporting of child maltreatment, and to enlist communities in the protection of children.
  • Adopt a model protocol for assuring that civil and criminal legal proceedings are closely coordinated between child protection and law enforcement agencies.

The state of Florida ranks No. 1, yes No. 1, in child-abuse related deaths in the nation. According to recent statistics, 4.63 out of every 100,000 children in Florida will die before the age of 18 due to child abuse or neglect. Have our state and federal lawmakers failed us or have we as a community turned a blind eye? The answer is both. There is only so much that Tallahassee and Washington can do to prevent these senseless deaths. We as citizens of the Sunshine State must stand up to prevent abuse. If people knowingly ignore the signs of abuse in a child, they are just as guilty as the abuser, nay, guiltier for allowing it to happen.

Most people seem to have lost sight of the objectives. We have become so worried about prosecuting the perpetrators of these awful crimes that we have forgotten completely about preventing the abuse in the first place. Communities must be proactive on this topic, not reactive.

“This is a real wake-up call for national media, which we are calling on to start doing it’s job in casting a long-overdue spotlight on child abuse and neglect deaths” says Director of the National Children’s Alliance Teresa Huizar. Many supporters think more coverage will result in fewer deaths.

Ultimately, it is up to all adults to take a stand against child abuse. There is only so much the media and the government can do. Without action from local citizens this epidemic will never end.

What can you do?

If you see something, say something. Lawyers, teacher, police officers and social workers by law are required to report any suspected case of child abuse. Informing one of these officials in time can prevent a death. Anonymous tips also can be made.

Talk to your children about abuse. Keep an open line of communication with your children and discuss with them the reasons why child abuse is wrong. Let them know that if they see something that doesn’t seem right, tell a teacher or come home and tell you.

Support programs that help abused children. Find a local organization that shelters abused children. Many programs are always looking for donations and families to sponsor these children. A Safe Place Haven in Tampa is a wonderful program that shelters women and children who have been subjected to abuse.

Become a Guardian ad Litem. Becoming a Guardian ad Litem is an important part of preventing repeat cases of abuse. Guardians are trained to represent children in the court of law and speak in the child’s best interest. Voices for Children is the local Guardian ad Litem program. Contact the group at

Sign a petition. Petition your local, state and federal representatives to take on the topic of child abuse in your area. Demand change for children who have no voice.

Several sources were used to research this article.

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