The headlines are all too common and all as equally disturbing and heart wrenching:
A baby, only 5 months old, left alone by her parents for several days and nights – slowly starving and dehydrating – to death.
She was likely awake for many of those hours, as her life slipped away. Nobody was there to help the 5-month-old infant. Her parents, Jason E. Chambers, 27, and Chelsea S. Cardaro, 19, fatally overdosed on fentanyl on or about Dec. 15 without regard to their own child lying in a bassinet.
Tragedies such as these happen EVERY DAY. Imagine if you will the number of child abused and neglected in this country. There are an estimated 638,000 children who are victims of child abuse or neglect each year in the United States. That is an average of 1,747 children abused or neglected EVERY DAY in this country. An estimated 4 children die EVERY DAY from child abuse and neglect in the United States; 70% of these children are under the age of 3. What if that was your child? After all, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across all ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Frightening stuff. But real.
— PoppysMission (@PoPpYsMiSsiOn) January 30, 2017
How does this happen? Why can’t it be stopped? The answer is that we all have to act to stop it. Every State has an agency charged with investigating the abuse and neglect of children and protecting children from these perpetrators. Yes, every bureaucracy has its’ flaws and issues and no, a State should not have to be in a position to serve as a parent for a child. But the reality is that there is a child welfare system designed to safeguard children, and that system should be challenged if it fails to protect.
Every State has a system in place to receive and respond to reports of the hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Mandated reporters (i.e. teachers, doctors, police, caregivers) and everyday citizens are asked to contact the local child protective services agency or law enforcement agency even if they only suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or if you are the child who is being maltreated.
Sadly, child abuse continues at alarming rates. People are uncomfortable discussing it. And while adults know that they should report the abuse of a child, they often do not. The adult may lack knowledge about the facts of the case, the child welfare system and the reporting laws, or they are shocked and frightened by what they have seen, and fear retaliation by the predator.
Only 1 out of 10 children ever report child abuse. That is why it is incumbent on those with suspicions or actual knowledge to protect these often voiceless victims; victims of horrific crimes, all too often including the death of a child.
If the child welfare system has blundered, floundered or flopped, it should be challenged and held accountable. A system charged with the protection of children must provide better for the child than was provided by the abusive parent. They have already been failed by those who should love them unconditionally – a father, mother, grandmother. If a child is at risk in a home, that child should not be allowed to remain in that home.
Children fall through the cracks. They do not pay taxes; they cannot vote; they do not write our laws. Do we as humans have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected and free from abuse and neglect? I think so. Demand it. From parents. From our child welfare systems. Give children a break.