See something, say something not just a good idea

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stories are emerging now about the many chances authorities had to prevent a deranged young man from going on a killing spree at a Waffle House in Tennessee.

Reportedly convinced Taylor Swift was stalking him, he was arrested last July for allegedly attempting to jump the fence at the White House.

Wearing only a green jacket, he opened fire outside the Nashville restaurant on Sunday, killing four and wounding four others before a hero grabbed the hot barrel of the gun and wrestled it away from him.

While the Nashville case, on the surface, seems like an obvious case of mental illness, we don’t know all the factors involved in the shooter’s actions. Whether they resulted strictly from illness, or other factors such as abuse, we don’t know, yet.

While more needs to be done to make mental health care available, the same can be said about preventing childhood abuse that can have lifetime consequences.

That’s the effort the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is making during this month’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“Abuse, in all its forms, interferes with a child’s healthy development. It can have long-term psychological, emotional, and physical effects, with lifelong consequences for the victims. By reporting child abuse, and connecting parents to the resources they need to care for their children, we all help families thrive and more effectively promote the safety, security and protection of Nebraska’s children, not just this month, but throughout the entire year,” said Matthew Wallen, director of the department’s Division of Children and Family Services.

In Nebraska, if you suspect a child has been physically or sexually abused or neglected, you’re required by state law to report it promptly to DHHS.

You can do so by calling the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, (800) 652-1999. Calls are anonymous and may change a child’s life.

The department received 36,805 child abuse or neglect reports in 2016 and substantiated 2,169 of them — a higher number of calls and lower number of substantiated reports than in recent years.

Even if the calls are not substantiated, but the family may be at risk for future occurrences of abuse or neglect, DHHS personnel can work with the family to provide services and programs to bring stability to the family’s home life.

“This goes a long way toward the prevention of child maltreatment,” Wallen said.

The state has recently made changes to streamline the process to allow help to reach families sooner, as well as better training staff members about issues such as child and mental and behavioral health, medical aspects of child abuse, improving the home study process and preventing pediatric head trauma.

But there’s much more the average citizen can do than just calling authorities, and many are already doing their part.

A local example is the recent swearing-in of a group of Court-Appointed Special Advocates, who volunteer to represent a child’s best interests during court proceedings. The TeamMates mentoring program at the McCook Public Schools is another good example.

A study by Prevent Child Abuse America found that

* 80 percent of Americans reported donating goods, money or time to an organization supporting children and families,

* 70 percent reported volunteering with children through places of worship, schools, and sports or academic clubs, and

* 56 percent provided mentorship to a child in their family, neighborhood, or community.

Additional suggestions from the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board and Nebraska Children and Families Foundation for how people can get involved are found at NebraskaPinwheels.org.

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