Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services in Cleveland, Ohio has been overwhelmed for many, many years. In July, Patricia Rideout, J.D., was named the Chief Administrator based upon her 22 years of experience in child welfare as an attorney and social worker with the hopes that an already stressed system can begin to work more effectively to protect our children.
According to the October 24, 2011 weekly statistics on the Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services website, there are currently 2.034 children in the custody of Cuyahoga County. Not in Ohio – but Cuyahoga County!! So far in 2011, the intake workers have received information on over 16,000 possible instances of abuse and neglect.
Abuse and neglect in our community CAN be lessened if not prevented. Everyone has some type of support system. Not necessarily someone they can go to and ask for help but for those person(s) to see what is going on. Our society must become more vigilant in seeing what is going on around us.
Apparently, little Neveah Aldridge, a two year old in Cleveland, was overlooked by the system we have in place – until yesterday. Fox 8 has reported that 10 days ago, her parents gave her away! Report from family friends indicate they accepted Neveah on the condition the parents “get clean” because the child’s grandparents had not been in the child’s life for the past 3 months. It is also documented in police records that Neveah had a pink eye infection, bug bites and bumps. How do we let this happen? How did a grandparent not suspect something “fishy” was going on?
Family, neighbors, educators, co-workers – we all have a responsiblity to see what is going on around us. In 2011, “I didn’t know” can no longer be an excuse. Recognizing neglect and abuse is essential in our society today.
Signs of child abuse and neglect:
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Lacks adult supervision
- Family and friends are blocked out of the childs daily life
- Always watchful as “if something is about to happen”
- Overly compliant, passive or withdrawn
- Personal hygiene
- When asked about specific issues, parent(s) blame the child, school, other family members
- Frequently absent from school
- Begs or steals money for food
- Lacks needed medical care
- Is consistently dirty or has body odor
- Shows extremes in behavior
Many of these signs can be observed if we are persistent in our observations. Ms. Rideout has a very heavy task upon her as she begins to increase the success stories in an already overworked system. We, as a community, must do what we can to help these children from never even getting into her statistics.
Be observant. If something doesn’t “feel right” please take a moment to think about why. Do NOT hesistate to call 216-696-KIDS and give them the information you have – anonymously. No harm will be done if nothing is going on – but just think how you would feel if something was happening and you never called.
The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services has an array of resources to help recognize and prevent child abuse and neglect:
- Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect
- Defining Child Abuse and Neglect
- Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
- Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
We all can make a difference to help prevent another child entering our county system.
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