Gathering Place
Aileen Deese

Join our march
to keep kids safe

Every year in America more than 3 million children are reported to child protective service agencies as suspected victims of child abuse and neglect. In our state, 6,000 suspected cases of child abuse are reported each year, and many more go unreported.

The incidence of child abuse in Hawaii has risen sharply over the past several years. More than 50 percent of reported child abuse cases and investigations in Hawaii result in a finding of confirmed abuse compared to 28 percent of reports nationwide. The proportion of children receiving prevention services in Hawaii declined from 22 per 1,000 to 12 per 1,000 from 1999 to 2002, due to the lack of dedicated financial resources for these important services.

The physical and emotional abuse of children yields harmful consequences for our society. Growing evidence links child abuse and neglect with drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, youth violence, chronic health problems and poor educational outcomes.

It is therefore critical to focus on preventing child abuse and neglect before it starts. It is time for the citizens of Hawaii to focus on the protection and care of our most vulnerable and trusting citizens ... the children in our communities.

Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii is a nonprofit whose mission is to prevent child abuse through education, public awareness and advocacy which promote positive parenting and healthy families where children are valued and loved.

In recognition of the need for community involvement in the prevention of abuse and neglect, Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii collaborates with organizations, agencies, associations, businesses and individuals to partner for prevention.

We need to raise public awareness to stop child abuse and neglect and educate everyone on how to report it. We need to prevent abuse and save lives. In pursuit of this goal, several child advocacy groups, including Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, the Hawaii Children's Trust Fund, Blueprint for Change, Prevent Violence Hawaii and others, have organized a special event from 7 a.m.- 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Hawaii State Capitol. We are inviting all of you to call for an end to child abuse and neglect. Community members are asked to hold up hands with red hearts on the palm of the hand with a message to "KEEP KIDS SAFE." Everyone is encouraged to join us at the Capitol or gather in your own community to put on a "KEEP KIDS SAFE" event.

Together, we can help keep our children safe. Let's stop the abuse before there are more victims like "Peter Boy" Kema and 5-year-old Talia Emoni Williams. Children are for loving ... let's line the street with hearts and hands for our keiki. Join citizens from across the state of Hawaii to stand up against all forms of child abuse and neglect.

Aileen Deese is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii.

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