By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
A series of month long events will mark Child Abuse Prevention Month in Kokomo and Howard County as the local Prevent Child Abuse council continues to tackle an on-going problem.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight issued a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention month in the city Wednesday.
Judy Dennis, director of the Family Service Association said in the past year there were fewer child abuse deaths in Howard County than in previous years.
“A few years ago, we had a number of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths because of unsafe sleeping environments,” she said. “This past year, there were no SIDS deaths after we conducted a safe sleeping campaign with the Health Department.”
Dennis said a lot of child abuse is not reported, adding there has been an increase in domestic violence cases which is a direct link to child abuse.
She said a lot of the child abuse is related to substance abuse, and the biggest difference being observed is the severity of the abuse.
Dr. Pat Webb, a clinical psychologist with St. Joseph Trinty House, said he is seeing a lot of cases where a child has witnessed domestic violence, which wasn’t reported for several years.
“The child suffers emotional and mental abuse,” he said. “Statistics show that child that witness domestic violence are more likely to have suffered physical abuse.”
Webb said in almost two-thirds of the child abuse cases substance abuse has been involved.
Goodnight said the Kokomo Police Department is dealing with an increase in meth labs in which children may have been present.
“We don’t know if there is an increase in the number of labs, or increased reporting,” he said. “There is more awareness.”
When asked about “bullying” in schools, Webb said it is important to determine how a person started exhibiting bullying behavior.
“There has to be some abuse going on at home,” he said.
Mary Armstrong-Smith, community partners director for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said there are 40 local Prevent Child Abuse chapters in Indiana that are serving 42 of the state’s 92 counties.
“I’m big on the Howard County Council,” she said. “Not all chapters have city officials that get involved.”