Stacey G. Sobel op-ed: Yes, we can end child abuse
Published Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Last week in Stamford, 2-month-old Bella died of a blunt force trauma to her head. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the death was a homicide. Although the cause of the trauma is still unknown, we recognize child abuse. Instead of passive despair, let this tragic incident serve as a galvanizing call to action for us all to commit to ending abuse and securing the safety and future of every child in Stamford and throughout Connecticut.
Yes, we can end child abuse. We can end it when we all become advocates for children.
For some of us, that advocacy comes in a formal role. Teachers, child care workers, health care providers and others who come into daily contact with children can be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect. Their actions to report suspected abuse or to offer extra time and attention to fragile children can do more than make a difference. It can save lives.
And now, for the first time in Connecticut, due to a new law that expands volunteer advocacy passed by the legislature and recently signed by the governor, CASA volunteers - court-appointed special advocates - can also put their passion for the well-being of children into action. Assigned to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, CASA volunteers work collaboratively to make sure children don't get lost in the overburdened legal and social service systems or languish in foster homes. Volunteers stay with a child until the court case is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.
For many abused children, their CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence in their lives.
A CASA volunteer's intense advocacy can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect. When children grow up in homes where an adult role model responds with violence or disregard for their needs, the cycle of abuse may be repeated with their own children. When a CASA volunteer intercedes, it not only helps to change the course of one child's life, but it can make an impact for generations.
Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer - although Child Advocates of SW Connecticut certainly welcomes more caring adults into our upcoming fall Training Class - but everyone can be an advocate.
Here are a few steps you can take to make our community safer for our children:
Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, many of which appear before an obvious physical mark: lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression, poor hygiene, or watchfulness, as if waiting for something bad to happen.
Also be aware of warning signs in parents: showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming the child for family problems, or other irrational behaviors.
If you think a child is in immediate danger, don't hesitate. Call 911.
Take new or stressed-out parents under your wing. Offer to baby-sit, run an errand or share your own challenges and insights about being a parent.
Volunteer your time and/or donate to community programs that support children and families
Your advocacy for children not only will help end child abuse, it will improve our community for everyone who lives here. Children who are abused and do not get the support they need to heal are more likely to drop out of school, end up homeless, and turn to addiction and crime. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives and tax dollars.
There are many life-threatening and incurable diseases that sadly afflict children. But we have the cure to end child abuse. It lies within each of us. Now is the time to act.
Stacey G. Sobel, Esq
., is executive director of the non-profit Child Advocates of SW Connecticut, advocating for children in the Stamford Court and throughout Fairfield County. Find out more or learn about becoming a CASA volunteer at