Your Opinion: Heed warning signs of child abuse, neglect

Dear Editor:

Stay alert and don’t ignore the signs of abuse

The tragic story of three Cleveland girls who were kidnapped as teenagers and suffered abuse for many years underscores how critical the theme for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April was: “Don’t Ignore the Signs.”

Franklin County Sheriff, Gary Toelke, who reported the good news in 2007 that two Missouri boys, Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck, had been found alive, explained that the news from Cleveland reinforces what he believes: “ “It just lets the parents know not to give up hope,” Toelke said. “There’s always a chance.”

A neighbor in Cleveland did the right thing and responded to a young woman’s cry for help. Because Charles Ramsey was a concerned neighbor, three young women were rescued on Monday and are now free, while their captors are in jail.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 797,500 children are reported missing in a one-year time span in our country; at least 100 of those children end up murdered. Five children die every day in the United States because of child abuse. Our community, our state and our country must give these tragedies the attention they deserve.

A key strategy of preventing child abuse is to be attentive to children and families in our own world. Paying attention to situations that do not seem right and then reporting concerns to the Child Abuse Hotline (Missouri: 800-392-3738) is an important step in saving a child from abuse, neglect or death.

Understand what to look for, learn how to help and always report your suspicions to authorities. There are children in Missouri who really hope you will.

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