Local group raises awareness on child abuse

LAKE COUNTY – For a child, their parent is supposed to be their first and last line of defense.

Yet many children across the nation have nobody to defend them from their own parents.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month nationwide and April 4 also served as the “Day of Hope” in Michigan in a proclamation issued by Gov. Rick Snyder. Several Lake County citizens are pitching in to raise awareness of the problem.

While many may think that child abuse and neglect is a problem that only happens in bigger cities and more metropolitan areas, it is a problem that is happening in our own back yard.

Chad Hurrle is a deputy with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. He also is the chairman of Lake County Children’s Trust Fund and works in the Baldwin Community Schools as the officer for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (D.A.R.E).

In the course of his work, Hurrle deals a lot with children and has seen up close and personal the problem of child abuse and neglect in Lake County.

“I work closely with child protective services and do all the child forensic interviews in suspected cases of sexual abuse,” he said.

“Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect is a problem in our area because our area is a low-income county. It’s not only the child abuse aspect, it’s also the neglect. These are a lot of the times the problems that come from low-income families.”

Last Friday, the Lake County Children’s Trust Fund, along with “Boys on the Run” and “Girls on Track” from the Baldwin Community Schools participated in a run to raise awareness for child abuse prevention.

All of the runners carried a blue and silver pinwheel which has been adopted as the national symbol for child abuse and neglect awareness by nonprofit group Prevent Child Abuse America and the Michigan’s Children Trust Fund.

The event started from the parking lot at the Baldwin Community Schools complex and ended up at the Lake County Courthouse, where all the runners planted their pinwheel in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In a speech before the children from the Baldwin Community Schools, Hurrle stressed that child abuse and neglect is often a hidden problem and needs to be reported more.

At the county level, Hurrle said that the Lake County Children’s Trust fund does its work by primarily raising money and supporting organizations that help prevent and raise awareness for child abuse and neglect.

“We support organizations financially that are community based and doing things to support the kids and prevent child abuse and neglect,” he said. “We accept $5,000 from the state and accept grant applications and spend the whole year trying to raise money to match those funds.”

Child abuse is a problem that can reach across all social situations in society and is not limited to a specific race or gender.

According to a 2011 report by the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund, 53 percent of abuse victims were male compared to 47 percent female. Sixty-four percent of victims were white and 34 percent were African-American.

The most troubling statistic may be that 30 percent of all victims are under the age of three and 85 percent of the abusers are the victim’s parents.

There also are an estimated five deaths in the United States in the home per year due to child abuse or neglect and more than 32,500 children were abused or neglected in Michigan in 2011, according to Snyder’s proclamation on April 4.

Abused children often suffer impaired brain development and suffer lifelong poor physical health. In addition, says the Administration of Children and Families, abused and neglected children respond to their early experiences with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, a difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with others, eating disorders and an increase in suicide attempts later in life.

Studies have shown that child abuse and neglect victims are 25 percent more likely to become youth delinquents, to experience teenage pregnancy, to become victims of substance abuse and to register drastically low academic performances.

The D.A.R.E. program is offered in schools throughout the country by law enforcement officials to not only teach children the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but also to show them that law enforcement can be trusted. As the D.A.R.E. officer, Hurrle said some of his biggest work is to gain the trust of the students.

“We’re in the schools to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and to let them know that there are law enforcement and teachers they can go to and that are on their side and will fight for them.”