COLUMBUS – Child abuse and neglect typically happen behind closed doors, and on Wear Blue Day, child-welfare organizations in Ohio are bringing such abuse into the light.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 27,000 Ohio children were the victims of abuse or neglect in 2013 and 48 died as a result.
Julie Malkin, public information officer for Lucas County Children Services, said child abuse is preventable, and any adult involved in a child’s life has a responsibility to take action if needed.
“If we all just step up and if we suspect something and make that report,” she said, “you could be preventing something that could be just truly heartbreaking from happening to a child.”
While there’s been a drop in the number of child abuse and neglect victims in Ohio in recent years, Malkin said there’s been a steady rise in children in protective custody – an increase believed to be linked to the opiate epidemic.
At Athens County Children Services, public information officer Robin Webb said her agency investigates abuse and neglect among families from all walks of life. She said there are physical and behavioral signs of both.
“Marks on a child are something that obviously should raise an eyebrow,” she said. “If children are coming to school and not being able to stay awake, if they’re not able to pay attention in class, if they don’t appear to be getting enough to eat, if they’re not getting enough nutrition, things like that.”
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Malkin said she hopes it inspires Ohioans to take child protection seriously. She said those who are truly concerned about abuse and neglect in their community should consider becoming a licensed foster parent.
“You could be providing the home that a child might not be able to have with their biological family at that particular time,” she said, “so that their parents can deal with the problems in their lives and the children can be on that road to, maybe, living in a safer environment.”
During today’s observance of Wear Blue Day, all Ohioans are encouraged to put on something blue and share a photo on social media to show they support child abuse prevention.