To the Editor:
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in the United States. The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline received over 151,000 reports of child abuse just last year. The agency responded to almost 95,000 of these reports to assess the allegations.
The sheer number of these reports is staggering. But the real tragedy is that each of these reports represents an Indiana child in harm's way.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The first official recognition of Prevent Child Abuse Month was in 1983 as Congress and other advocates looked for ways to increase public awareness of the need to protect children from abuse and neglect. Since that time blue ribbons and pinwheels have become symbols of the national movement to end child abuse.
The statistics are alarming. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that five children die every day as a consequence of child abuse. In Indiana, 198 innocent children died from abuse or neglect during State Fiscal Years 2006 through 2010. The vast majority of those cases involved children under the age of five.
While child maltreatment is a complex problem, there are often contributing factors that play a role in abusive behavior: poverty, divorce, drug abuse, stress, and job loss, to name a few. While not all parents who face these challenges are child abusers, it is important for someone -- a family member, friend, co-worker -- to be there for that parent to offer support and get involved if there is a concern children may be in danger.
April is also a time to recognize that everyone in the community should play a part in promoting the well-being of children. As community members, we all play a big role in the positive development of our children. We have a tremendous influence on them, even when we think they're not watching. An involved, caring adult can prevent harm to a child caused by an abusing or neglectful parent.
We as a community can't sit silently and allow child abuse to continue. There are countless ways we can all get involved. Whether by becoming a foster or adoptive family, volunteering at or making financial contributions to local agencies, or simply spreading the word about awareness and prevention campaigns, everyone has a responsibility to prevent child abuse.
Local DCS offices and other entities have scheduled events throughout the state to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Some will offer tips on how to recognize signs of abuse or neglect or how to report it. Others are featuring seminars or walk-a-thons and other fundraisers. I encourage you to call your local Department of Child Services office to find out about events in your local area and then join us as we all work together to help keep Hoosier children safe.
You can find the phone number to your local office by going to this website: http://www.in.gov/dcs/2372.htm .
Preventing child abuse begins when everyone takes responsibility for making the community safe for all children. Children are the future of Indiana and deserve the best communities can offer. We all have a part to play in protecting them. Please, let's all get involved. Not only is it the right thing to do, we absolutely owe it to them.
James W. Payne, Director
Indiana Department of Child Services