Steps To Fighting Child Abuse

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli
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April 5, 2005

A Virginia child died of abuse or neglect on average once every 13 days in the first half of 2004. Officials are using April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, as a chance to lower that number.

"It makes, you sick. It's very sad," said parent Stephanie Biancavilla.

"A lot of communities, it is the unseen crime that happens and it very much impacts the development on our children, which is our future generation," said Bradley J. Wentz of the Charlottesville Department of Social Services.

In Charlottesville many of these cases have one common them--drugs.

"We have found that about 80 percent of our cases have parents using illegal substances," said Wentz.

It's so common that the department developed a family treatment court.

"The court is not about jail time and that sort of thing, it is actually very encouraging in keeping people on track with where they need to be on their substance abuse," said Wentz.

The once voluntary service received a grant of $400,000 this week.

"And we're going to be serving as a model treatment court for the whole country actually," Wentz explained.

But Social Services is trying to prevent the abuse before it starts. Virginia just released nine strategies for reducing it--ranging from public education to advocacy.

"Children do not have a political voice and they are not of voting age and there's nobody there other than advocates to let people know that child abuse is out there," said Wentz.

At the local level, Charlottesville is sponsoring a events like brown-bag luncheons. The first was on parental stress.

"What causes stress for them?" Cara Marinucci of Region Ten asked. "Sometimes it's around their expectations of their children and whether they are appropriate or not based on their developmental stages as well as the external stressers in their life." These range from poor time management and organization skills to their diet.

The next workshop will be held on Tuesday, April 12 and will discuss mandatory reporting of child abuse.

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