Forum puts spotlight on child abuse

Posted on February 23, 2012 by admin

Panelists pushed the need to educate the Roanoke community about awareness.

By Sheila Ellis and Miranda Beck

The Roanoke Times

The heart-wrenching story of toddler
Aveion Lewis garnered national attention and inspired a gathering of child
advocacy groups and the Roanoke Valley community to discuss child abuse
awareness and resources Tuesday night.

About 100 parents, teachers, elected
officials and child care professionals joined in on the conversation titled
“It Takes a Valley: A Community Forum on Child Protection.”

The event at Patrick Henry High
School was partly sparked from concerns surrounding the Aveion case, said
Shannon Brabham with the Roanoke County Department of Social Services.

“There was a lot of need to
educate the community in the roles different people and organizations
played,” Brabham said. “But also how they work together.”

The panel addressed how to report
child abuse and the roles each panelist and their organization or institution
have in the process to protect children.

The panelists were Jane Conlin,
Roanoke Department of Social Services; Janice Dinkins Davidson, Children’s
Trust of Roanoke Valley; Robin Haldiman, CHIP of Roanoke Valley; Dr. Don Kees,
pediatrician; Sgt. Tim Spence, Roanoke Police Department; and Philip Trompeter,
Roanoke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge.

They explained child abuse is
divided into four types: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional

Every 84 minutes in Virginia, a
child is abused or neglected, and every eight days a child dies from abuse or
neglect, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Haldiman discussed shaken baby
syndrome and new specialized training that is being offered showing parents the
effects on an infant’s brain when they are shaken.

Many people are afraid to report
child abuse, said Sammi Rader of the Family Violence Coordinating Council.

“It’s one of those things we
talk about and read about in the paper, but a lot of people don’t understand
the procedures [to report child abuse],” said Kristy White, a guidance
coordinator at Patrick Henry for 10 years. “The main thing here is

All reports are confidential and
names are never released, the panelists emphasized.

“We need the community to call
us and not be afraid to call us,” Brabham said. “I don’t think that
fear is always the reason, I think sometimes people don’t know what information
to give us.”

In order for a report to the
Department of Social Services to not be screened out, the abuser has to have a
caretaking relationship with the child (otherwise the abuse is considered
assault), and there must be “something that’s happening that is
detrimental to the child,” Conlin said.

Kees said part of his job is
figuring out if a child’s injury is accidental or intentional.

He said some abuse is hard to
diagnose, like if a child is being fondled or forced to watch pornography.

“None of that leaves a physical
mark,” he said.

Among the attendees were Gail Warren
and her daughter, Melissa Brown, with Blessed Assurance day care in Roanoke. As
child care providers, they’re required to keep up with training, 12 hours a
year, and this community forum provided some of that.

“I think it helps us to be
aware what facilities are available and to keep up with our children’s
rights,” Warren said.