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Editorial: Rowan must not forget 1997 child abuse victims

Be nosy. Ask questions. Don’t accept excuses for suspicious injuries. Call Social Services and law enforcement.
These are a some of the ways everyone can help fight child abuse, a crime that happens far more often than most people know or want to think about. Every 10 seconds a report of child abuse is made, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
Not every case is confirmed.
But authorities believe countless more cases go unreported.
Rowan County residents became painfully aware of child abuse in 1997. That was the year three young children died in separate incidents after being beaten and battered by the people who were supposed to be taking care of them. Jordan Bradshaw, called “Budde Clark” at the time, was 6 when he died at the hands of his stepmother. Christopher Jones, 19 months, was killed by his mother’s boyfriend. DeMallon Krider, 2, died after being thrown and beaten by his mother.
The Post never had a photo of Christopher, but photos of Budde and DeMallon show two happy-looking boys posing playfully for the camera. For them, there should have been many more photos, many more years.
The community grieved and vowed to never look away again when signs of child abuse and neglect surface. There were other lessons, too — such as the need for communication among hospitals, social workers and law enforcement when abuse is suspected. Local agencies developed a formal protocol to make sure that happens.
Even more important, we learned that the Department of Social Services’ child protection unit must have enough social workers to adequately investigate and monitor the incidents reported to them. That is especially crucial this year as state and local governments trim budgets. We must not cut corners on protective services for those most vulnerable to abuse — children and the elderly. We have experienced the consequences.
Law enforcement investigators see it all, and they have words of advice. “People should be aware of what’s going on around them,” says Salisbury Police Detective Russell DeSantis. “The smallest thing a child might say may indicate possible abuse.”
The community failed Budde, Christopher and DeMallon. That must not happen again.
To report abuse, call Child Protective Services at 704-216-8498 during the work day; after hours call 911.

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