6.25.2012

Child Abuse: A Not-so-Hidden Epidemic

As you probably remember from this post I did a few days ago, June 16th was the 4th Annual Katelynn Stinnett National Memorial Ride for Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness. This is a truly wonderful event and was a big success.

I did some research and was amazed at how big the event really is. What started out as a small idea in the motorcycle community, is now a nationwide charity ride with volunteers from 50 states participating. I was also completely heartbroken and in tears while reading the story of little 2 year-old Katelynn Stinnett, a toddler who was raped and killed by her 18 year-old babysitter. To read all about her story and how this charity event came to be, click here.

Having worked with children for many, many years, child abuse is something that pains me deeply. According to www.childhelp.org, every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States alone involving around 6 million children. The general statistics: a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds and every day more than 5 children die as a result of child abuse. We hear about child abuse cases quite often. Whether it's in the news or in our community. Anyone who has ever worked with children or in a social services-related field has seen it up-close. If you watch any of the Law & Order or other crime-related television shows, they talk about numerous homeless and run-away abused children, over-crowded foster homes, and over-worked social workers quite consistently. They aren't masking that stuff up. So it makes me wonder why so many people and websites are calling this a "hidden" epidemic. I understand that sometimes the signs are hard to see and so many children suffer in silence. Yet, I still ask myself how much of it is just a well-hidden secret, and how much of it is people not being aware of the signs or turning a blind eye?

This is really a tough call. My opinion seems to reflect that of the latter. In just my first 7 years of working with children in a pre-school/day care setting, I can say that I have truly seen it all. I saw abuse and neglect on many levels, with some parents not even aware of what they were doing to their children, and some just not caring at all. If I could have adopted every child that I wanted to take home and give a better life, I would have more children than Angelina Jolie and The Brady Bunch combined. Many days were completely heartbreaking. Making calls to Child Protective Services became second nature. It was not at all what I signed up for when wanting a career working with kids but it was reality and something that I needed to know how to deal with. Sometimes, it became more than frustrating. Sometimes calls I made did no good. I saw people not report things in fear of displeasing a parent. Often times, money played a big part. I got a first-hand look at how the system worked, including the flaws and failures. What it all comes down to is that this system was designed for a purpose: to protect the children. However, there are so many children rotating throughout this system, many fall through the cracks. I believe that every case is important. Abuse is abuse, period. It's also not just physical. It is mental and emotional as well. Neglect is also considered a type of abuse, and I know we have all seen at least one of these cases in our lives. And it's not just happening in the homes anymore. It's happening in orphanages and in foster care. It's happening in the places and by the people that are there to protect the kids.

I used to think that if enough people were aware of the epidemic, things would change. The system would improve. I'm not so sure if this is true or not. I know that there are a lot of politics other factors involved. All we can do is our part. Not turn a blind eye. Not be scared to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Below are links to a couple of organizations that can point you in the direction of how we can all do our part and fight child abuse, including writing to your member of Congress. It's amazing how taking a few minutes of our time can make a big difference in the lives of others.

Every Child Matters

American Humane Association

~xoxo~


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