Childhood is supposed to be an age of innocence, but for too many in the Commonwealth it’s a time of suffering. In 2009 a report revealed that Kentucky led the nation in the number of children who die as a result of abuse and neglect. Statistics show that every minute in Kentucky, two children are victims of abuse and neglect that can leave emotional and physical scars that last a lifetime. No doubt there are countless more cases that go unreported.
What’s worse is the fact that many of these victimized children will grow up likely to continue the pattern of abuse. It’s a deadly cycle that claims lives, destroys families, harms communities and haunts future generations.
There’s no overnight solution but for over 142 years, Sunrise Children’s Services has been working to serve wounded children who long for a safe home and the support of caring adults. Over the course of time, specific needs, challenges and methods of helping these children have changed, but the core of our work continues to center on providing hope and healing to young people who have suffered from abuse and neglect.
The first step in helping protect anyone from a dangerous situation is to provide them with a safe haven. Through a statewide network of foster homes and residential centers, Sunrise offers a refuge for young people who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse and neglect.
It is amazing to see the kids in our care change as we begin to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Kids must have love, stability, direction and structure to thrive, and in time we see these kids respond positively to our efforts.
Success comes when we see a child who struggled socially or academically because of the trauma endured at home, blossom into a young person full of potential. Success comes when a young child whose medical ailments caused by abuse or neglect are treated and they become healthy and active. Success comes when we see a child, whether a toddler or a teen, smile because they finally feel safe, secure and valued.
Ultimate success however comes not from helping children who have been abused, but rather acting proactively to help prevent child abuse in the first place. Towards that end, Sunrise and other agencies are optimistic about efforts to provide in-home counseling to at-risk families. Stepping in to help parents who might need assistance in learning how to cope with the everyday stresses of raising a family is key in not only stopping abuse, but possibly breaking a cycle of abuse that has plagued a particular family for generations.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we’d like to invite all Kentuckians to join in the effort to bring awareness to this tragedy that harms thousands of children in every part of our state. It’s a great opportunity for you to partner with Sunrise or other child advocacy groups to help. You can find out more about Sunrise at www.sunrise.org , or to report child abuse, use the Kentucky Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-752-6200.
Dr. William Smithwick
President & CEO, Sunrise Children’s Services
Mt. Washington, KY 40047