To the Editor:
Sadly, reports of child abuse, neglect, abandonment, and even death make the news headlines nearly every day.
In some instances, these tragic events could not have been predicted or prevented; however, in most cases, someone could have intervened early on to help prevent the abuse or neglect from occurring.
There was a time when the community got involved. Family members willingly lent a hand to loved ones. People sat on the front porch and knew their neighbors. Strangers came together in tragic circumstances.
But today there are children who live in homes with feces and rodents; are beaten for not making it to the bathroom in time; have meth labs in their homes; or are molested by family members.
Helping to keep children safe is everyone's responsibility, but all too often, the family members, neighbors, friends and strangers who see the warning signs do nothing to help. We cannot help the children who have been hurt in the past. But we can change how lives are affected in the present and in the future. We can decide to open our eyes to the signs of abuse or neglect and do something about them. We can decide to get involved and help make a difference in the life of a child.
There are many heroes who fight for the welfare and safety of Indiana youth everyday, including: Rich Tardy, an attorney, who every Monday throughout the year leads a Scout Troop of over one hundred youth and knows each by name; Jackie (last name not used), who was abused as a child, and is now married with one child and adopting a second child from an abusive environment; Helene Massey, a GAL volunteer who has helped dozens of children as a friend and advocate; and Stacy Lozer, a tireless volunteer at her children's school who is known as someone who will get any task completed for the school and the children.
Starting today, make it your responsibility to help children in Indiana. Recognize when children are suffering and don't wait for others to make the decision to help them.
Here are 3 ways you can begin to make a difference this week: 1) visit the home of every child who is a relative and ask how they are and if there is anything you can do; 2) go next door and ask a neighbor if there is something you can do to help them (bring a dessert, water the flowers, etc); and 3) visit a school, daycare, scout troop, etc. and ask if you can help.
Step up today to help a child. Parents and family members have to accept that it is their responsibility to care for their children -- but it is everyone's responsibility to help keep children safe.
James W. Payne
Director, Indiana Department of Child Services