Your Opinion: Help prevent child abuse

Dear Editor:

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to focus on how to prevent abuse, how to educate citizens about recognizing the signs of abuse, how to provide treatment to children who have experienced abuse, and how to support families who are touched by abuse.

As the tragic Penn State and Catholic priests abuse cases became front page news several years ago, interest in and conversations about preventing child abuse increased. Sadly, local cases continue to occur throughout Central Missouri.

The state Senate is currently working on the budget for next year. At the recommendation of the state Personnel Advisory Board, the governor requested additional funds in his proposed budget to support front line staff of the Children’s Division at the Department of Social Services.

These are state employees who work hard every day in extremely stressful situations as they deal with the tragic situations of child abuse. Unfortunately, the House Budget Committee reduced the amount of Gov. Nixon’s request for a salary adjustment for these employees and now children’s advocates are hoping to draw attention to this critical part of the state budget process during Child Abuse Prevention Month as the Senate reviews the proposed budget.

Working to prevent child abuse must be a 24/7 responsibility of our community, our state Legislature and the nation. Remember, children have no choice about the circumstances to which they are born, they have no voice and they have no vote, so it is critically important that adults take action when any possible abuse is suspected.

Every citizen should learn about recognizing the signs of abuse, believe a child when abuse happens, and report suspected abuse immediately! It is so important that we pay attention to the children in our world, those in our families, our neighborhoods, our faith communities, and those we encounter in our day-to-day lives. If you suspect that abuse might be a possibility, please pick up the phone and call the Child Abuse Hotline: 800-392-3738. There are many children who hope you will.

Taking a collective approach with citizens, community advocates, state social services staff, elected officials, law enforcement, and local media all working together on this important issue is a crucial step.

Please be part of the solution and pay attention to the children in your world, don’t ignore the signs, child abuse is preventable.

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