The tragic death of 3-month-old Joseph Lutz from starvation and dehydration brings to light the often dark, hidden dangers of child maltreatment.
While such stories break our hearts and call for prosecution of those who caused the child’s death, it is equally important for our community to remember that child abuse and neglect can be prevented.
At Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, our vision is that each of these horrific stories will be accompanied by parenting and prevention information that equips your readers to do better.
If prevention information were regularly discussed, perhaps someone would have noticed this situation earlier and taken action to protect this infant and his siblings.
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse and is often associated with parental substance abuse, untreated mental health issues or parents who lack emotional stability or maturity. Even in those children who survive, long-term neglect can negatively impact the development of a child’s brain, resulting in depression, issues coping with stress and learning difficulties later in life.
Like all other forms of child maltreatment, neglect can be prevented. Struggling parents should be connected to community resources such as substance abuse treatment, parenting support programs and mental health treatment. Parents can also call our KIDLINE, ( 800) CHILDREN, which offers free, anonymous parenting support and information, as well as referrals to local community services. KIDLINE is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week and is answered right here in Baton Rouge.
Finally, suspected abuse or neglect should be reported to the authorities at the state Department of Children and Family Services. While this is not prevention, but intervention, we must watch out for all children in our communities and get help when it is needed.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I hope that this year we have more concerned people visiting our website, www.pcal.org, accessing parenting resources, putting Pinwheels for Prevention in their yards to raise awareness, volunteering for KIDLINE or simply starting a dialogue about how to better care for our most vulnerable residents .
It is only by focusing on prevention that we can end the vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect.
executive director, Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana