Considering the news that has been plastered over local media stations lately, one has to wonder if there is any hope for the safety of our children anymore. We have seen small children left in locked cars (where temperatures reached 115 degrees) while a parent goes to work, newborns left on the steps of churches, toddlers subjected to their parents' meth labs, and scores of others abused or even murdered at the hands of their parents. While the children who survive these tragedies are placed in social-service care, their emotional and physical scars won't easily go away. Sometimes they impede a child's ability to relate to others in a healthy way -- and, on occasion, the pain becomes too much to bear and the young victim commits suicide.
Of course, most Americans are sickened by the ever-increasing reports of neglect and abuse. We hope and pray that situations like this will never happen in our neighborhood yet feel defenseless to stop these crimes.
There are, however, some important actions that we, as concerned citizens, can take to at least decrease the number of these heartbreaking occurrences.
The first is to become completely vigilant. As we actively observe the children around us, we keep our eyes open for any unusual behavior or marks they may have. We see how the kids react to their parents whenever we see them "out and about" -- or watch those whose parents are away from them. Further, we listen for any loudness or violence emanating from homes in our area. If we suspect any "foul play" is involved, it's our duty to call the police and report it. From this action, we might actually be saving our children.
Secondly, we need to push for stricter punishment for those who have been arrested for child abuse or neglect. Sometimes, the perpetrators of these crimes are given sentences that are tantamount to little more than a "slap on the wrist", thus allowing them the freedom to abuse again. If we do not take a stand and push Congress for stronger legislation and punitive measures against abusers, we will continue to see thousands of innocent, trusting children being used as punching bags, guinea pigs or discarded like pieces of trash. Moreover, if these heartless abusers continue to go unchecked, then they will most likely try to inflict the same pain upon others.
The final step is to be aware of all registered sex offenders in our area. If we learn the faces of those who can do our kids harm, we can provide even better protection for the children. A list can be easily obtained through local County Sheriff's offices.
It’s important to provide abused or neglected children a “safe house” to which they can turn in the event of a catastrophe. In these, the child is protected from harm as well as given a place to relax, sleep or even talk out their troubles. Of course, these will have to be approved by our local police or sheriff’s departments, but they’re of immeasurable value when it comes to shielding the child from harm or harsh elements.
If there a child shows signs of abuse from an adult within his or her home, it’s extremely important to let the local law enforcement intervene. Although we are the ones who call 911 or social-services, we need to let them personally confront the family; if we take that on ourselves, there’s a distinct possibility that their anger will not only be amplified against the child, but most likely will be turned toward us as well.
The care of our children should transcend the individual effort; it should also be the duty of every teacher, church worker and business leader in our area. Often, we hear the words “I don’t want to get involved,” and realize they’re spoken out of fear. But there are small children who need our involvement, if they’re to live a peaceful life at all. With police willing to keep our names “anonymous” in the event of a report, we have little to lose by blowing the whistle on those who abuse or neglect our children.
And, with safe and happy children being saved, we have a world of love – and of peace – to win. Not only are they precious beings, but they're the only hope we have of a bright and productive future for this planet.