OPINION: Our children deserve better

On average, five children die every in the U.S. because of abuse and neglect, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children (ASPCC). That’s the equivalent of a classroom-full of children lost forever at the hands of abusers.

The U.S. has one of the worst records among industrialized nations, and Kentucky has the second-highest rate of child abuse cases in the nation. American children, and especially those in Kentucky, are suffering from this often underestimated and hidden epidemic of abuse, neglect and maltreatment.

According to the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report issued by The Children’s Bureau in January 2017, children abuse referrals have increased to 4 million cases in the U.S. Child deaths from abuse and neglect have also increased from 1,580 annually in 2014 to 1,670 in 2015.

Children younger than 1 suffer the highest rates of abuse. Neglect is the No. 1 form of abuse with more than 75 percent of victims neglected; 17 percent at physically abused, 8 percent are sexually abused and 7 percent are psychologically abused.

A parent is most often the perpetrator.

While many die each year, there are likely thousands more cases where the abuse goes unreported. These children survive, but are destined to deal with the negative ramifications of their childhood abuse for the rest of their lives — often prohibiting them from becoming well-functioning, healthy, productive adult citizens.

April is Child Abuse Awarness Month, a time dedicated to honoring and remembering the lives lost too soon to abuse and neglect. The month also serves as an opportunity for community to band together to raise awareness, educate about risk factors and indicators and advocate for children.

We can all take part in reversing this negative trend and helping survivors.

The most important things we can do are advocate and educate.

Learn about the indicators of abuse. There are many, including unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, scars, fractures and burns. There are also behavioral indicators, like aggressiveness or withdrawal. Other obvious signs are children who are frightened of their parents or say they are afraid to go home. Be mindful of children who report being extremely hungry, who exhibit had hygiene or dress inappropriately of the season. Watch for children in your community who are often unsupervised, especially for long periods of time or in potentially dangerous scenarios.

Report potential abuse to the police or by calling the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD.

Childhood should be fun. It should be time of growth and learning. It’s a time to be nurtured and loved. While it presents its own difficulties, childhood should not include abuse or neglect.

Our children deserve better. There’s not excuse for abuse.

Be mindful. Speak up. Stop abuse. Report it. Be an advocate. Help make the world a better place for children.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board is comprised of publisher Michael Caldwell and managing editor Whitney Leggett. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.