Opinion: National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Yesterday, I was made aware of a story about a six-year-old boy from Fergus Falls who was allegedly killed by his caretakers. His caretakers are in custody for his death and his sibling was taken into protective custody. I couldn't stop thinking about him yesterday. It weighed heavy on my mind.
You see, it's not just some news story. This is a very sad reality for so many children in our society--probably happening to someone right now as you read this. Child abuse isn't something we really talk about.
I noticed something interesting last night. I posted a link to the Fergus Falls news story on my personal Facebook page. I included a 'donate' option with the link, asking for donations for Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, a local non profit.
My post didn't get many comments or reactions. In fact, instead, I received personal messages from a few people telling me their own stories of witnessing child abuse first-hand--their struggles of trying to get help for these young people which were only met with push back from the system. Some of the people that reached out to me were teachers that see it in their classrooms on a regular basis and report the situation with no results. They thought it would be taboo to comment publicly about the matter.
It became quite obvious to me that there's a huge problem with our system and our society. We don't talk about this issue enough. It's a silent problem that seems to fly under the radar until we see tragedy unfold in the daily news.
I was made aware of another news story from a few years ago that ran in the Star Tribune about a little boy named Eric Dean from Pope County. He was just four years old when he was killed by his mother. The headline claimed he was "The Boy They Couldn't Save." After reading the article it became clear that he's actually the boy the system wouldn't save. Fifteen reports of child abuse had been made since the time Eric started attending daycare. Let me say that again...FIFTEEN REPORTS WERE MADE. The system failed him. Our society failed him.
There was an article on WJON the other day about how cases of child abuse are on the rise due to opiod addiction. There are so many reports of child abuse that the system can't seem to keep up. How heart breaking!
There has to be warning signs, right? I crept on the Facebook pages of the two people taken into custody for the death of the 6-year-old Fergus Falls boy. It became obvious to me that these children were not living in a healthy or stable environment. There were clear warning signs of abuse. You have to think that the people who knew the children must have witnessed abusive behavior, right? As a society we need to be proactive in being a voice for those who don't have one.
Many people shy away because they chalk it up as a private matter, a situation they don't want to get involved in or family business. In the case of Eric Dean, his daycare providers knew that once they reported the abuse, his mother would take him out of their childcare program and relocate him somewhere else. They wouldn't be able to continue to monitor him. Not only were their reports not investigated, but they lost touch with Eric. What a terrible situation to be in.
I'm not trying to shame our society. I'm trying to get the conversation started. We need to start doing something for these young people and be advocates for those who are voiceless. We need to be persistent, report abusive behavior and let the abusers know that we will not tolerate it.
There are a few ways that you can help. First, report any abuse you're aware of and keep up on it. Make others aware of what's going on. You can also donate or volunteer with non profit organizations like Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. You can volunteer to be on committees that plan outreach and education programs as well as advocate for children at the legislative level.
We have to do something, Minnesota. Many little voices are counting on us to be their megaphones. Let's help them!