|No child deserves to be abused or neglected. |
Yet, every day in our community there are children being mistreated. "This has to stop. We must all work together to prevent harm to any more of our young people, said Calhoun prosecutor Shannon Johnson.
What can the public do?
First, raising awareness that abuse and neglect is still very much present in the community.
Johnson notes: ""Last year in Calhoun County, there were 80 abuse and neglect cases filed in Circuit Court."
"That means that 80 children in our county were a victim of abuse and/or neglect severe enough that DHHR felt it appropriate to file a court case against their parents," Johnson said.
She went on to explain that there are many types of abuse and neglect: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; exposure of children to domestic violence, dangerous situations, people, or drugs; medical and educational neglect; abandonment; lack of supervision; and failing to protect a child from any or all of those.
"Our citizens need to remember that abuse and neglect can occur at any age and to any child, regardless of their parents' economic status, educational background, occupation, or ethnicity," Johnson said.
Second, she said people must recognize the signs of abuse and neglect.
While the signs of each type of abuse and neglect vary, some of the most obvious signs are: sudden changes in behavior or school performance; unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes; excessive school absences; seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home; begs, steals, or hoards food or money; lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses; and lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
Each child will react differently to their own unique situation, Johnson said.
"We must also talk to our children about the importance of telling an adult they trust if someone talks to them or touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or hurts them."
"Being a parent or guardian can be the most rewarding and joyous experience of most people's lives. But, it also can be the most exhausting and stressful."
" We must consider reaching out a hand to the parents we recognize are in need and under stress. Whether that be lending assistance to families with babysitting, food, clothing, transportation, or even just an ear to listen, any small amount of help may make the difference.
Finally, Johnson says there must be a willingness to report any abuse or neglect that is suspect. Contact the local DHHR office at 304-354-6118 during business hours or the West Virginia Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
Prosecutor Johnson says that when you call, you should try to have as much information as possible, such as the child's names, parents' names, and addresses.
"Reporter information is always kept confidential."
"We are lucky here in Calhoun County to have a close-knit, supportive, caring community. If we all work together we can eliminate child abuse and neglect," she concluded.