Local News

DSS Officials Working With Military To Prevent Child Abuse

Posted Updated

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — After a series of child abuse cases involving military members, the Department of Social Services will work closely with Fort Bragg on prevention.

In the latest case, two soldiers are accused of abusing their 5-month-old baby in January. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office arrested Ester Tuiasosopo Monday. She is accused of breaking the baby's leg and causing injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Her husband, Derrick Leomiti, is charged with allowing one of the injuries to occur.

"I can think of nothing a 5-month-old child could do to warrant this kind of anger. I think it has more to do with what's going on with the adult's life than what's going on with the child's life," said Detective Melody Farham, of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

All four of the couple's children are now in the custody of the Department of Social Services. DSS officials did allow the child to remain at home because there had been no history of abuse and the parents agreed to social worker visits.

While local numbers show military child abuse is consistent with the rest of society, there is concern about the severity of some cases.

This month, sheriff's deputies have arrested two Pope airmen and two Fort Bragg soldiers on child abuse charges.

DSS director Bill Scarlett says his numbers do not suggest military parents are more likely to abuse their children, but he said he wonders if abuse in the ranks is more likely to go unreported.

"What we are looking to do is to make sure people across the country know they are obligated to report abuse and neglect," he said.

Kelly McDonald, director of the Child Advocacy Center, said military families have a number of risk factors that can lead to child abuse, including the lack of family support closeby. As a military spouse, she believes soldiers and airmen may not seek help because commanders would find out.

"The military sees it as an effort to maintain good morale and readiness, which is their mission. However, it can prevent families from accessing the prevention they need if it will have negative repercussions on their careers," she said.

The Army and Air Force offer many prevention programs to help soldiers become better parents. They include new parent support groups, home visitations and specialized classes.