Spate of child abuse in Chandler spurs action - East Valley Tribune: News

Spate of child abuse in Chandler spurs action

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Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 6:48 pm | Updated: 12:55 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

If it appears that someone else's child is being abused or harmed, an observer shouldn't hesitate to get involved for the sake of the child. That's the message being developed by Childhelp, an international, Scottsdale-based nonprofit dedicated to child welfare. The campaign began when Chandler officials approached the group for help after a recent spate of severe domestic violence attacks on children in the city.

If it appears that someone else's child is being abused or harmed, an observer shouldn't hesitate to get involved for the sake of the child.

That's the message being developed by Childhelp, an international, Scottsdale-based nonprofit dedicated to child welfare. The planned public education campaign, which will feature ads on television, radio, newspapers and online, began when Chandler officials approached the group for help after a recent spate of severe domestic violence attacks on children in the city.

Paul Penzone, Childhelp's director of prevention and special projects, said the point is to remind parents that they are not just responsible for their own children.

"I'm sure there will be a small percentage who will feel that it's invasive to get into the affairs of other families," Penzone said. "I would rather be accused of being nosy than of doing nothing and letting a child get harmed."

Between June and October, three Chandler children were killed in domestic violence incidents. One other child's death is still under investigation. Two additional children suffered broken bones and serious injuries, according to police.

The spike sent Chandler officials in search of a solution to the problem, and the city ended up calling on the 50-year-old Childhelp organization for assistance, Penzone said.

"They recognized that this problem needed immediate attention," he said. "That was the galvanizing issue. It's unfortunate that tragedies such as the high volume of death in a short period of time are what bring focus to a problem that's been there far too long."

Over the last few weeks, the city and the nonprofit have invited other Valley communities, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, government and private child welfare agencies into the discussion.

"It really started to develop a life of its own," said Jane Poston, a Chandler spokeswoman. "A lot of people wanted to help."

Penzone said the public awareness campaign is expected to cost $250,000 to $500,000, but will produce a memorable anti-domestic violence message that will stay with the community.

"It's to create a theme that is powerful and stands the test of time," he said.

Childhelp is funded through federal grants and private donations. Participants in the campaign will have to decide on a way to raise the money, he said.

"We're all going to have to work together to find funding," Penzone said.

The local uptick in cases of severe domestic violence is in line with a national trend, he said. Financial stress at home because of the economic downturn likely is a major factor, he said.

"(Case workers) are telling us that they're seeing more severe cases of abuse that are consistent with the stressors in the economy," Penzone said.

The public service announcements could begin airing in April to coincide with Child Abuse Prevention Month, he said. Eventually, the group could come up with policy recommendations on how government and private agencies can better prevent and deal with domestic violence, he said.

"There is no quick fix to this," Penzone said.

Ultimately, the goal is a societal attitude change to encourage the reporting of suspected domestic violence, he said.

"We can't just close our eyes to what's going on and not see anything beyond our own four walls," Penzone said. "Any child's safety is everyone's responsibility."  

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