It’s time to heed the call and commit to prevent child abuse.
Somerset on Wednesday hosted the statewide kick-off of Child Abuse Prevention Month and several local and state officials encouraged those in attendance to help stop child abuse before it even begins.
“This is a tremendous problem that should never exist,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during the welcoming portion of the kick-off. “The heartbeat of America is our children. ... We do set the example, and the kids will follow our example.
“Let’s take something away from this conference as adults, and that is to try to protect our heart, our children,” Girdler added.
This is the second year the Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK) organization has held the kick-off outside of Frankfort. Wednesday’s event was held at Somerset Community College.
PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred said Somerset on Wednesday set the bar high for future kick-off events.
“The amount of effort and energy and time that everyone has put into the planning ... you all have just been tremendous,” Seyfred said, in recognizing the many local officials and citizens who worked to plan the event.
Pulaski District Judge Katie Wood gave a short lesson on the legalities of child abuse — which is categorized into dependency, abuse and neglect.
Wood said she and other judges have seen their fair share of abuse cases, even though they don’t all go to court. Wood said 956 abuse cases were reported to social services in 2012 in Pulaski County alone. Wood said that means 15 to 16 cases per social worker, per month. Wood also noted that each child in one family is not a separate case. Workers may be dealing with one case that may involve as many as five or six children in one family.
Wood said many child abuse reports come from schools, hospitals and other health care settings, and from authorities. Once a complaint is received by the state, it goes into centralized intake and is reviewed to determine whether the complaint meets criteria for an investigation. If the case does, it gets sent back to the county it was reported in, and an investigation is opened within a short period of time. Wood said extreme situations, like possible sexual abuse cases and cases during which a child is critically injured, begin within an hour.