‘This is an everyday occurrence:’ leaders urge child abuse reporting

Every year, nearly 1,000 children in abuse cases are served by local CARE House.

More than 900 children were served by a local child advocacy center in 2021, and the Montgomery County prosecutor said it’s incumbent on everyone to speak up when they suspect child abuse.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The National Children’s Alliance estimates 700,000 children are abused in the nation yearly, Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said Tuesday. The prosecutor also noted that due to the pandemic and other factors, cases are probably underreported.

“Everyone has a role to play in combatting child abuse and neglect,” Heck said. “It’s not just others that have that responsibility. I think we all do.”

Many changes were recently implemented both locally and at the state level to help children, Heck said. Local law enforcement and social service agencies are communicating better with each other about potential child abuse cases and reporters of child abuse and neglect are being updated about their complaints, he said.

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CARE House Child Advocacy Center in Dayton serves local children who are alleged victims of abuse. It served 924 youth in 2021, around the same number of kids it has served each of the last four years.

Libby Nicholson, the CARE House director, said it’s important for people to know that child abuse does take place here.

“This is an everyday occurrence in this community,” she said, noting that each child is impacted differently by abuse. She said even with law changes, at the end of the day it’s up to people to make a phone call if they suspect child abuse is occurring or has occurred.

“Individuals have to step up and do what is right for kids,” she said.

CARE House staff and others are planting pinwheels throughout the community this month to bring awareness to child abuse prevention. The prosecutor’s office donated nightlights, snack cups, toothbrushes, diapers, baby wipes, strollers, car seats and other items to local programs that aim to help protect children.

“Every child deserves to live their life without the threat or without being abused and neglected,” Heck said.

Statewide, Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill earlier this year that aims to improve the way every Children Services agency in the state operates and protects children. It creates an ombudsman office to oversee children services, creates a mandate that county offices create a memorandum of understanding of their obligations that the state must approve, mandates that children services must disclose reports to the local, state or federal government entity and county children services offices must follow up with reporters to let them know their concerns were investigated.

The bill stemmed from a Dayton Daily News investigation that exposed gaps in the system that was supposed to protect 10-year-old Takoda Collins. Collins died after suffering extreme abuse from his father.

Also on Tuesday, Heck presented Adrian Trochelman with the 2022 Champion of Children Award. In 2020, Trochelman found a memory card in the parking lot of a local bingo hall and discovered that it contained child pornography — including images of a child being sexually assaulted. He reported it to the police and through an investigation, Michael Luther was arrested.

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Heck said the young child has cerebral palsy, is non-verbal and is confined to a wheelchair. Luther pleaded no contest in the case and was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.

“Because Adrian Trochelman found a discarded memory card and reported its contents to police, a child molester will spend more than two decades in prison and will no longer be abusing children,” Heck said.

Trochelman encouraged others to speak up about child abuse.

“Keep the children safe. If you see something wrong, say something. Get in contact with somebody. It only takes one second,” he said.

Children served at CARE House by year:

2021: 924

2020: 967

2019: 955

2018: 983

source: CARE House

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