Citizens must help reduce child abuse

Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How many of our citizens realize October is National Domestic Violence Month? Reducing cases of domestic violence and child abuse is a goal of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs.

As a member of these organizations, I have had the opportunity to hear speakers from Safe House and Owens House.

Recently, Helen Rardin, director of Owens House, spoke to the Columbiana Culture Club, of which I am a member.

The information she provided on child abuse was not only shocking, but was evidence that children are emotionally scared for the rest of their lives by abuse and neglect.

The Shelby County Child and Abuse Report for 2007 reported 558 cases involving 789 children. One in six boys and one in four girls will be abused. Only one in nine cases are reported for investigation.

Shelby County should be proud of the work that is being done by the Owens House. It is a private nonprofit organization initiated by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office as an effort to coordinate community response to the problem of child abuse.

Unfortunately, no single agency can meet all the needs of physically and sexually victimized children and their families.

After a child is brought to the Owens House, professionals from law enforcement agencies, child protective services and the District Attorney’s Office conduct team interviews with the child. These team interviews reduce the number of interviews required of the child and subsequently the trauma to the child.

A recent article in the Shelby County Reporter pointed out that funding is a constant problem for this facility. In 1999, the State of Alabama gave Owens House $150,000.

The state revenue for 2009 has been cut to $64,845. This is a decrease of 57 percent. The monies they received this year from the Victims of Crime Act were cut 17 percent from the previous year.

As citizens of this great country, we have an obligation to make sure that these organizations are properly funded. Protecting children from abuse is everyone’s responsibility.