Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 11, 2014

Involvement can lessen child abuse

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — VERSAILLES – Exactly when Gov. Mike Pence was leading a similar event in Indianapolis, Michelle Russell, Indiana Department of Child Services Ripley County director, welcomed 60 attendees to “this most critical cause,” a National Child Abuse Prevention Month ceremony April 8 at the Ripley County Annex.

She noted, “Last year 24,731 reports of child abuse and neglect were substantiated in Indiana – 87 in Ripley County. Currently DCS services over 13,500 – 51 in Ripley County.”

“The key to preventing child abuse is to become involved,” Russell emphasized. “Check on and reach out to families who are isolated.” To avoid neglect and abuse, families should be urged to become connected with sports, faith and other activities.

Frank Goodpaster, Osgood, Ripley County Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse chair, said he is always surprised to meet people unaware of the group’s existence. “What we do, I think, is important.” He pointed out the Department of Child Services, Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), courts and police “deal with problems and we try to prevent them.”

Council meetings, which are open to the public, are held the third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Ripley County extension office. “I would encourage you to come and be a part of it.”

The next speaker was Joyce Holland, Batesville, a council member and CASA Ripley County liaison. She explained the volunteers “give children a voice in court. We investigate, we visit them” and make sure their rights are not being violated during abuse and neglect cases. With 12 active volunteers, “I certainly need a whole lot more” in Ripley County. There are 15 children on a waiting list for advocates. Persons who would like to undergo CASA training and volunteer may contact Holland at 812-212-6867.

Of child abuse, Holland said, “I had no idea how big the problem is” here. She pointed out, “Traumatized children become adults with problems.”

She stressed to the audience, “If you see it, it’s your job and responsibility to report it.” Persons who suspect child abuse or neglect should call toll-free 800-800-5556 24/7 or 911 in an emergency.

“We are here because we believe children are valuable,” said Mike Singleton, an ordained minister, Indiana Child Fatality Team member and administrative general manager of the Community Partners for Child Safety Program offered by Ireland Home Based Services.

“We are excited to let you know many families ask for our services,” which range from discipline issues, parenting education and structure and routine to employment and housing assistance, child development and counseling. The nonprofit agency has been open in Versailles for about a year.

Families and professionals can request the free, voluntary (not court-ordered) services.

Singleton observed, “I would suggest to you parenting is a hard job. Hopefully, we can teach and promote the idea of prevention.” The program is “the community partnering together for the sake of the children.”

“Parents have worries and questions and lots of stress.” He said Ireland Home Based Services offers “short-term programs to help people over that hump.” One example he gave was of an “extremely overwhelmed” pregnant woman with four children who lived separately from her husband in the same cluttered house. She was gratified when six workers showed up to clean the home. “It’s not about handing people something. It’s helping them with something.”

He wondered, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could help reduce the number of children who have to live in a ... traumatic situation?”

The benediction was given by the Rev. Roger Dean of Church on the Rock Assembly of God, Batesville. He asked God to give attendees the knowledge to handle dangerous situations and recognize families in trouble, and to give officials the wisdom to know what to do for children who have been harmed.

Above all, “Lord, change people’s hearts.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.