Commentary by Sue Page, Executive Director, Children’s Center of The Antelope Valley
Child Abuse is a scourge. Most people would agree with that statement. No one wants to believe that a child would be intentionally harmed physically, sexually or emotionally. Yet it happens every day. What do we do about it? Childhood should be that special time of grace where everything is still a wonder and a joyous heart is the norm. Sadly, for some, it is a time of pain, confusion and horror.
Here, at the Children’s Center, we work against the simple premise that it shouldn’t hurt to be a kid. I say “simple”, conveying an idea to which everyone agrees, while acknowledging that the solutions are more difficult.
The founders of the Children’s Center, some 25 years ago, worked hard to establish a center that would exclusively address child abuse in the Antelope Valley. Statistics then, as now, were alarming and the justification for creating such a therapeutic facility seemed obvious. As our region has grown, so too has the problem.
So, just how many children are abused in the United States each year? The answer is…we don’t really know. Child abuse continues to be a silent crime. Significant numbers of child abuse cases do not get reported and data collection systems across the country collect information in different ways. Still, the most recent national data released by the national Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems indicates that child protective service agencies received and referred for investigation an estimated 3 million children in one year.
Shocking statistics in the Antelope Valley
Here in the Antelope Valley, where we have better numbers, the statistics are shocking. According to the Department of Children and Family Services, more than 880 children per month were reported to be victims of child abuse or neglect. This represents a 24% increase since 2005. Today there are over 3,600 open cases of suspected child abuse in the AV.
It’s no wonder we’re trying to draw attention to the problem. This is more than a problem. It’s a crisis.
The stories of child abuse appear in the paper consistently. But, often, by the time we read of the abuse, the case has already elevated to trial or burial.
At the least, we wish to advise the community of where to get help if child abuse is suspected. In an emergency or life threatening situation, call 9-1-1 and secure police assistance. For a non-emergency situation, call the Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-540-4000) at DCFS to a make a child abuse report. The Los Angeles county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the local child protective services agency, has the legal authority to “explore, study and evaluate” the facts surrounding a reported case of abuse or neglect. A Children’s Social Worker will be sent to investigate the situation.
For families where the risk of child abuse is high or where physical abuse has occurred, child abuse prevention and treatment services are available through the Children’s Bureau of Southern California (1-800-272-0438).
Treatment services for sexually and physically abused children are available at the Children’s Center of the Antelope Valley (1-661-949-1206). The Children’s Center takes a comprehensive approach to child abuse prevention and treatment. Programs include: enriched play; child abuse treatment; parent child therapy; family support; family preservation and parenting classes. As a stand-alone agency, we take pride in the idea that we are changing our community through our community.
Vigilance and education are the two words I’d most like to leave with the reader. But even more important is the concept that child abuse is 100% preventable. We all know that a healthy child makes for a healthy family, a healthy community and a healthy future.
April is National Child Abuse Awareness month. It is very much in all of our interests to be attentive to the child abuse problem and proactive in its solution.
Intrinsically, we all know, it shouldn’t hurt to be a kid!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.
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