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Published: Wednesday, 12/18/2002

Authorities urge zero tolerance, vigilance to prevent child abuse


Lucas County authorities yesterday urged residents to take a zero-tolerance stand toward child abuse and neglect after the deaths of three children since October from abuse or being shaken violently.

Authorities said they want to combat such tragedies by raising public awareness about child abuse and neglect and its warning signs and by giving residents tips that may save a child's life.

“Our kids count and our kids are counting on us,” Sandy Isenberg, president of the Lucas County Commissioners, said. “There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse.”

Authorities said they want to spread the word now, during the holidays, when people may be more stressed and frustrated.

Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services, urged the public to watch for signs of child abuse and neglect and to report such suspicions, even if it's within one's family. “Child abuse is a crime,” he said.

It's a crime county Prosecutor Julia Bates has seen too many times during her career. “We don't want this. We don't need this,” she said.

On Sunday, 14-month-old Collin Fowler died after being shaken violently on Friday. Delia Searcy, 15 months, died Nov. 26, a victim of child abuse. In October, 17-month-old Dale Juan Davis died from injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Mr. Sparks said authorities need to educate those who care for children - from parents to day-care workers - about what to expect from the youngsters, such as their ability to cry and get into things. Caregivers also need to learn how to control their impulses, he said.

Mayor Jack Ford, who helped found Substance Abuse Services, Inc., agreed. He said parents and grandparents must be “very vigilant,” especially with young men who become fathers or the boyfriends of single mothers.

Mr. Sparks said such services as parenting classes and mental health centers should be available to caretakers, who should have a respite even if for only a brief period.

Children Services receives about 4,700 referrals of child abuse and neglect a year. About 35 percent of the referrals are substantiated. Less than 10 percent of children are removed from their homes, Mr. Sparks said.

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