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Child Abuse: Everyone's Responsibility

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RALEIGH — For many, child abuse is the most appallingact imaginable, particularly when it leads to parents killing their ownchildren.

In the past week, mothers in Harnett and Gaston Counties were chargedwith that crime, and a Fayetteville woman is charged with beating herbaby into a coma.

So who should have intervened? Who takes the responsibility forreporting or preventing these crimes.

According to police and social workers, everyone is responsible.

Social worker Derrick byrd has worked with children for 20 years as aninvestigator for Wake County's Child Protective Services. He carries acase load of from 12 to 15 cases at a time. He says he tries to make adifference every day.

Some wonder if more quality time spent investigating the Harnett Countycase of 8-year-old Justin Reese might have saved his life. His mother,Katurah Reese, has been charged with his strangulation death. Family,friends and school personnel all say there were signs of abuse, but no onetook responsibility for intervention.

Byrd says itisoften difficult to prove abuse, even if thereare signs.

In Wake County, there are about 20 investigators handling 200 caseseach month. Abuse cases must be investigated within 24 hours after theyare reported, neglect cases within 72 hours. In addition, there aresupport services aimed at parental education. The Child Abuse PreventionCenter of Wake County is one such service.

Center Director Lynne Browne says that type of service can be veryhelpful.

Caseworkers and others involved in the fight against child abuse saythat fight doesn't start inside government offices. Rather, they say, itstarts in the community where people see and hear what's going onfirsthand. They urge anyhone with concerns about a child to call theDepartment of Social Services.

You can also call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453for information on how to spot and report suspected abuse.

In North Carolina, the law requires anyone who suspects child abuse toreport it to DSS. Anonymous reports are allowed.