The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

October 25, 2009

Oklahoma ranks No. 7 in child abuse-related deaths

Oklahoma has a national ranking that should be seen as an embarrassment by everyone in the state.

According to a study by Every Child Matters Education Fund, Oklahoma is No. 7 nationally in the number of deaths related to child abuse and neglect. In 2007, the latest figures available for the study, 31 children in our state died from abuse or neglect.

We also rank No. 9 in the number of documented cases of abuse, with 13,179 in 2007.

In the years from 2001 to 2007 a total of 269 children in the state died from abuse or neglect.

The only word that comes to mind is shameful.

Stopping child abuse and neglect isn’t easy. There are laws on the books designed to protect children, but the abuse continues. It’s no different than any other crime. There are laws on the books against murder, but people still kill other people. There are laws on the books concerning stealing, but people still steal.

The question of how to prevent child abuse and neglect isn’t an easy one to answer, but state lawmakers are looking at the issue. The House Human Services Committee last week met to discuss programs for new and expectant mothers.

One lawmaker is looking at drafting legislation to create a pilot program that would require new mothers and families to meet with child welfare specialists.

In Tulsa, there already is a program in place that has shown good results. The Parent Child Center of Tulsa has a program that distributes information on the dangers of shaking a baby to new mothers at four Tulsa-area hospitals.

According to the center’s director, there has been a 59 percent decrease in the number of shaken baby cases since the program was started.

That’s an encouraging sign. Programs like that will help and should be encouraged.

There is no easy answer, there is no easy way to prevent child abuse. But we can’t just ignore the issue. We as a state need to do whatever we can, and the Legislature needs to take the lead.

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