Friday, 29 March 2019 18:20

OP ED: Protecting Our Children

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OP ED: Protecting Our Children Supplied photo

Some of the best tools that can be used to protect children from abuse and neglect is raising awareness about its prevalence and helping families seek resources they need.

Since 1983 presidents have issued proclamations declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and states have followed suit in issuing their own proclamations. To reinforce awareness, organizations across the country display pinwheels--a national symbol that reminds us that child abuse is in our midst and that each child deserves a safe and happy childhood.

While proclamations and pinwheels may seem like small efforts, they help the public acknowledge the scale of child abuse and neglect. In 2016, there were 676,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in the U.S. In the same year, more than 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect. Neglect represents the largest percentage of child maltreatment. Child fatalities and confirmed reports of neglect and abuse, however, do not illustrate the full extent of the problem. Studies show that many more cases of abuse and neglect go unreported. Though it is hard to know the actual number of cases, one case is too many.

One way that federal and state governments have worked to reduce instances of child abuse and neglect is to encourage reporting of suspected cases. In 1964, the state required doctors to report child abuse and sexual assault to law enforcement and since then, the law has been updated multiple times to require that more professionals report suspected abuse. Today, school officials, coaches, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), day care center workers, and substance abuse professionals are among the list of professionals required to report suspected abuse. The intent of the law is to get children and families the help they need in order to prevent further abuse.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services maintains the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment for child abuse reports and a hotline that accepts reports of suspected abuse. The hotline can take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anyone from the public can call the hotline at 1-800-342-3720. There may be times when callers have very little information on which to base suspicions but anyone witnessing abuse or interacting with children who exhibit signs of abuse are encouraged to call. Trained specialists at the call center can help determine if the information provided can be registered as a report. In addition, the law provides for confidentiality of callers unless the source has given written permission to be identified.

Each case is different but training helps mandated reporters to know the classic signs of abuse. In addition, local organizations can help with counseling and other resources for children. Medical exams, counseling, and help for those who have been traumatized or abused are available at local Child Advocacy Centers. Victims’ advocates at local CACs work hard every day, along with local law enforcement, to be a voice for our children. The Child Advocacy Center in Oswego County has two locations: 163 S. First St., Fulton, NY 13069 and 4822 Salina St., Pulaski NY 13142. They can be reached at 315-592-4453, by email at [email protected] or visit their website at http://oswegocac.org/. In Jefferson County, Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York is located at 418 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601 and can be reached at 315-788-8520 or visit their website. In Onondaga County, the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center is located at 601 East Genesee St., Syracuse, NY 13202. They can be reached at 315-701-2985 or visit their website at https://www.mcmahonryan.org/.

To learn more about reporting child abuse, visit https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/. To learn more about resources for parents, visit https://www.preventchildabuseny.org/ . If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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