Within the last month, the media has been saturated with the horrific news of 477 child abuse and neglect deaths in Florida over a six-year period, tragic stories about eight precious children being abused and starved, two children drowning, and many more arrests for child pornography.
On April 1 “Child Abuse Prevention Month” was kicked off at the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa. On March 28, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County held a “Child Safety Summit,” bringing 113 child advocates together to develop a campaign to end preventable child death in the Tampa Bay area. Media coverage of both events was minimal. We, as a community, including the local media, need to march down this path together.
In the Tampa Bay area, only one in four of the children who died from child abuse and neglect (four of 10 families) were known to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Nearly three-quarters of children under the age of five are dying from three preventable causes: unsafe sleep, abusive head trauma and drowning.
All three of these events are preventable; education and training of our citizens can eliminate this needless loss of life.
It is incumbent on each citizen to protect Hillsborough County’s children. We need to instill a sense of responsibility in everyone to report any suspicion of child abuse. I would venture to say that any one of us would report a child we see locked in a vehicle unattended; we would be lauded and praised as a hero for potentially saving a life. We need to take the same diligent stance on suspected child abuse and neglect.
We need all citizens — and the media — to hear and respond to a “call to action” for the prevention of child death and the education of our community.
The writer is executive director of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.