Continued vigilance needed on child abuse
The numbers on child abuse deaths in Mesa County, as released in a state report last month, are dated, to be sure.
Those numbers from Colorado’s Early Childhood Needs Assessment, for 2004 through 2006, showed Mesa County had the highest rate of child fatalities due to abuse or neglect among Colorado’s urban counties.
However, as Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland told The Daily Sentinel’s Emily Anderson this week, the county and the community responded five years ago to the rash of child abuse deaths reflected in those numbers.
Following a public meeting held in October 2007, efforts were initiated to increase training for people in positions most likely to encounter child abuse. Also, communications systems between schools, physicians and those to whom they report child abuse and neglect were improved. And a hotline was created for parents to call if they felt overwhelmed by their circumstances and in danger of abusing their children. Law enforcement and the district attorney were included in the efforts.
A larger program — How Are the Children: The Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families — was organized at roughly the same time, having grown out of previous county programs regarding children. The program doesn’t focus exclusively on child abuse and neglect. It also works on nutrition, reading, health care and parenting skills. But educating parents and the public on ways to recognize, report and prevent child abuse are also important parts of the program.
Rowland may be correct that, in part as a result of these community efforts, Mesa County no longer ranks so high in child deaths from abuse and neglect.
Even so, the numbers released in the statewide report, combined with the still-too-frequent news reports of child abuse and neglect in this area, are important reminders that the efforts begun several years ago must be ongoing. Continued vigilance is needed to alleviate child abuse and neglect.