Toledoans have endured two horrific recent episodes of child abuse, each of which ended in the murder of an infant. Such lethal incidents are blessedly rare. But they should not divert public attention from the more-common local examples of child abuse and neglect, which require community as well as individual responses.
Last week, 26-year-old Amanda Bacon of Toledo was sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted her of the 2012 murder of her 6-month old son. Avery Glynn Bacon was struck in the head so violently that his brain ceased to function. Bacon continues to insist she is innocent and plans to appeal her conviction; she will be eligible for parole after 15 years.
The mother of Elaina Steinfurth and her former boyfriend are serving life sentences for the murder last year of the 18-month-old girl. After the infant was reported missing from her East Toledo home last June, police discovered her decomposed remains in a garage behind the home last September.
There were two other recent cases of endangerment that led to a child’s death in Wood County. Such cases are aberrations, and even then intent and premeditation on the part of the abuser are often hard to determine.
Lucas County Children Services reports that the 952 confirmed cases of child abuse in the county last year were nearly 16 percent higher than in the previous year. Twelve children in Lucas County died as a result of child abuse and neglect between April, 2012, and April, 2013, Children Services says.
More positively, overall reports of child abuse and neglect in the county have decreased slightly. But that offers no cause for complacency.
A longtime caretaker who had planned to adopt Avery Glynn Bacon asked why his mother did not seek help. Other parents who feel overwhelmed need to know that help is available. Ohio’s “safe haven” law, for example, enables parents who feel they can’t or don’t want to care for their infants to surrender them at hospitals or fire stations.
There are less drastic remedies. Children Services, the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, and other local agencies work hard to get parents the education and resources they need to preserve their families. Early intervention and adequate support services can prevent a difficult domestic situation from becoming a deadly one.
Lucas County residents can report suspected abuse and neglect by calling 419-213-2273. We all can educate ourselves about the warning signs of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children. We can listen to what children tell us about how they are treated.
It’s gratifying that members of this community are coming together to help prevent child abuse and neglect and to demand justice on behalf of the victims when they occur. Such efforts are vital.
As Child Abuse Prevention Month ends, Toledoans must resolve to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Preventing abuse is in the first place a matter of responsible parenting, but everyone can contribute to the conditions that will make it more likely that children will be cared for well.