Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility (Editorial)

Rebecca  McGuire.jpgIn the time it takes you to pour your morning coffee, another child will be brutalized by abuse or neglect. Most likely, from the hands of adults they trust to love them the most — their parents.

And, sadly, according to the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Annual Report (2013), 122 children died in Florida as a result of abuse or neglect in 2012, the latest statistic available. A grim reminder that child abuse is a serious problem in our communities.

One child suffering from abuse or neglect is one too many. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. It’s tragic. It’s happening right in your neighborhoods. And it’s happening every day.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. Child abuse is preventable.

As our nation honored Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month last month, we need to act now and protect our vulnerable children. We cannot wait until another child’s horrific injuries become the leading news story. We need to make a difference. We need to change the course for our children. We need to encourage our legislatures to equitably fund programs and services in child welfare especially those that work to prevent abuse and neglect.

Children’s Home Society of Florida focuses on protecting Florida’s vulnerable children. We are committed to breaking generational cycles of abuse in families so more children grow up safe and healthy. By focusing on the needs of the children and families and encouraging Early Childhood Learning, we can make a difference in the future of a child. Our voluntary Healthy Families program boasts a 98 percent success rate, keeping thousands of Southwest Florida children safe at home with their loved ones by preventing abuse before it starts, according to Healthy Families Florida.

Not only does preventing child abuse make moral sense for our community, it makes financial sense as well. Healthy Families Florida states that it costs Florida 38 times more to help heal a child who has been victimized by abuse than to help prevent a child from ever suffering the horrors of abuse. And, it costs one child victim to heal from the pain of abuse or neglect as much as $72,709 a year.

Last year, Children’s Home Society of Florida worked closely with nearly 2,500 children and families in Southwest Florida to encourage strong family relationships and prevent abuse from devastating more lives. We continue to be the leader in keeping more children safe.

But there is still more that needs to be done. We need more powerful voices to join us in the fight.

Be an advocate for our children. Take action against child abuse by encouraging fundamental changes in our child welfare system. Contact your local legislators today to help advocate for critical services, like Healthy Families Florida, so our children can be free from abuse and neglect. Collectively, it’s our responsibility to protect our children.

— Rebecca McGuire is executive director for Children’s Home Society of Florida, serving children and families in Southwest Florida.

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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