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Help us shed light on child abuse

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By Jesse Osbourne

 

I knew there was a problem in Kentucky with child abuse, but I never realized the scope of the problem.
On Friday at the Kentucky Press Association winter convention, I learned how a recent legal battle benefitted me and possibly children around the state.
The battle was between three newspapers (Todd County Standard in a separate suit, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal) and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The battle was over the release of reviews containing information about deaths and near-deaths resulting from child abuse in 2009-10. The journalists wanted the documents, the cabinet wanted to keep the records confidential.
In the end, a judge ruled that the documents be released. More information about the panel discussion can be found on page A3.
The experience was eye-opening for me. I came away with several questions.
First, how can I help bring this story to light? I know that Washington County has advocates for this cause. How can I work with them to bring this issue more to the surface?
Secondly, how can I tackle the issue of substance abuse, which is the main culprit for child abuse, according to the state’s top child-protection official?
These are hefty questions for a green editor at a small weekly newspaper. I’m not opposed to hefty, though.
There are several long-term projects on my to-do list at the moment, some of which may never become ink printed on paper. A story or series of stories on child abuse and substance abuse were recently added to that list, and I hope that they will gain enough traction to see print.
As a new parent, I can’t fathom abusing my daughter. I cringe at the thought of her bopping her head or falling down while trying to learn to use her little legs.  
Apparently, some folks out there don’t feel the same way.
It’s important that we start working on this problem.
I remember local child abuse advocate Pat Sutton speaking to the fiscal court members in April of 2011 about the issue. She’s been fighting against child abuse for 15 years.
Pat, if you’re reading this, let’s have lunch sometime. I need to be better educated about this issue.
According to information from the fiscal court meeting Sutton spoke at, Sutton said she didn’t  think Kentucky was ranked first in the nation for child abuse cases, but it still ranked very high.
According to Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, based in Lexington, there were 61,754 separate children reported in child abuse cases in Kentucky in 2010.
Of those, 19,500 were reported as needing services.
Sutton said Washington County had 116 separate children reported in child abuse cases, while 48 of those were substantiated.
Think of the future Kentuckians can look forward to if we can straighten this problem out.
Correcting this problem could lead to a lot of excellent benefits, such as more money in the state bugdet.
If a problem disappears or gets better, at least, less money has to be spent on fixing the problem.
I’m willing to bet the number of inmates would drop, too.
It sounds naive, I know.
But, something my Dad always told me to do was to ‘take care of your own little corner of the world.’
I think we can all do that by loving our own children.
Secondly, we can be aware of conditions in a child’s home.
If we become aware, we can report those conditions to the proper agency.
If nothing happens after reporting it, let’s contact our legislators.
The top child-protection official in Kentucky urged a room full of journalists to do just that.
I plan to.
We’re all responsible for our own little corner of the world, after all.