NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE

Parenting is one the hardest jobs in the world. It requires time, attention, responsibility and patience. Any lack of these things could be dangerous to a child. A deficiency of time or attention could lead to neglect, and a shortage of patience or responsibility to physical harm. Whether intentional or not, I promise this – when it comes to the law, there is no excuse for abuse.

Child abuse often stems from homes with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, high levels of stress and frustration or homes with young parents. In 2008, BSO’s Child Protective Investigations Sections (CPIS) handled nearly 15,000 child abuse reports, a 17% increase from the previous year. This means that for every 1,000 children in Broward County, 33 are subject to an abuse investigation.

These numbers are frightening. We should all be more proactive to help protect children from abuse and neglect. This means personal responsibility for your own children and communal responsibility for the children in our classrooms and neighborhoods.

Taking personal responsibility for your child means asking for help if you find yourself with a tendency to abuse. There are organizations in the county that provide free, confidential counseling and referral services for parents to assist them in providing safe, nurturing and healthy homes. A quick dial to 2-1-1 on your phone will connect you with First Call for Help, or you may contact the Florida Parent Helpline at 1-800-FLA-LOVE. Remember, harsh punishment for them will lead to harsh punishment for you, so seek help if you need it.

Taking personal responsibility for your child also means protecting him or her from the abuse of others. Do so by participating in your child’s activities, being alert for changes in behavior, paying attention to anyone who shows a greater than normal interest in your child and teaching your child to talk to you about how others treat him or her.

Responsible citizens should take a communal responsibility for children, especially teachers and caregivers who work daily with kids. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected always report it, even if you are unsure. You may do so by contacting your local law enforcement agency or by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE. You can find great information about preventing abuse and noticing signs of abuse at the website www.preventchildabuse.org.

By taking responsibility for your own children and helping to look out for others, you help law enforcement keep our little ones safe. This year I hope to see a decrease in child abuse and neglect reports, and an increase in happy and whole families.

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