Local News

Child Abuse: Everyone's Responsibility

Posted September 23, 1996 12:00 a.m. EDT

— For many, child abuse is the most appalling act imaginable, particularly when it leads to parents killing their own children.

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

So who should have intervened? Who takes the responsibility for reporting 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 an investigator for Wake County's Child Protective Services. He carries a case load of from 12 to 15 cases at a time. He says he tries to make a difference every day.

Some wonder if more quality time spent investigating the Harnett County case 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 one took responsibility for intervention.

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

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

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

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

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

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