The perfect storm

The children of Jackson County are in trouble. Not all of them, but some.

Children are too often victimized by poverty, neglect, extreme family dysfunction manifested as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, all of which are beyond their control, all creating a perfect storm, a nexus, that prevents the children of our county from flourishing.

So what can be done? Find below the words of those who work on the front line with the children of abuse and poverty wherein they outline those changes they feel are necessary if we are to have any chance of breaking the cycle of abuse and children living in poverty:

"Short term, I'd like to see 100 more CASAs added to our program so that we could provide one to all children who have been abused and are in foster care. I'd like to see state funding support consistent mental health treatment to offenders and children (especially the children). For the parents who are repeat abusers, I'd like there to be stronger laws that support permanent removal of the child (this is really a big wish, since the Constitution supports a parent's right to their children). I'd also like to see all high schools touch on parenting in their curriculum."

— Jennifer Mylenek, Executive Director CASA of Jackson County

"Education"¦awareness"¦responsibility"¦it's not just the authorities role to deal with child abuse. If we see it in the grocery store, we should report it. If we see it in our neighborhood, we should report it. So many people are fearful of 'sticking their nose in other people's business' that there tends to be a lot of 'looking the other way' and that silence prevents the cycle of abuse from being broken. It should not be tolerated. Period. The other part of this is that many children suffer silently and we often don't see the abuse until it is too late and serious harm has already occurred. Our system needs to support child abuse prevention, of kids of all ages."

— Mary Ferrell, Maslow Project Director

"The number one change that needs to be made is to shift the paradigm away from the idea that it is the child's responsibility to protect him or herself. The way we did it in the old days: 'Don't talk to strangers,' will not cut it today since we know that stranger danger is less than 2 percent of abusers. The people who hurt our children are people we know, love, trust and would defend. They are people we like. They belong to our clubs, teams, churches, and schools. They do not fit the old stereotype. Today we know better. We should know that we are our children's protectors. Accept the task of being responsible for every child in our community. Believe your child if he or she tells you a secret. Don't overreact. Tell them it's not their fault and that you will protect them."

— Marlene Mish, Executive Director, Children's Advocacy Center

"I think the cycle can be broken in many ways. And yet I think for it to be broken it has to be known. It's hard to fix things we don't know are badly broken. I am hopeful through stories such as those that appear in this series and through events in our community that people will realize that we know these children; we know these families. We must act. Not unlike plants, when the light shines, they thrive. We can't be surprised that these children and their families are withering. We must be the light that says our community can take better care of children. We can take better care of families. We can take better care of this community. Together we can create strategies for prevention, for treatment, for stabilizing families, and for helping these children not just survive but thrive.

— Dee Anne Everson, Executive Director, United Way of Jackson County

"I believe it is critically important to try and understand abuse in the context of the struggles that families face and the life experiences of the adults responsible for abuse. When there is any suspicion of maltreatment of children, there must be an immediate response. The immediate safety of the child is paramount and steps must be taken to insure that. If we hope to help families rebuild their lives so they can care for and nurture their children, we must try to understand the correlating conditions (addiction, poverty, domestic violence, mental health, previous abuse of the adult when he or she was a child, etc.). We must find effective strategies to intervene in these conditions if we hope to preserve families."

— Mary-Curtis Gramley, Executive Director, the Family Nurturing Center, Jackson County Children's Relief Nursery

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