Program focuses on stopping child abuse


Angela Cain/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - More than 20,000 Indiana children are abused or neglected each year. Domestic violence is one of the causes of child abuse. A new campaign urges parents to break the cycle of abuse.

Two months ago, a shocking case of child abuse came out of Kokomo. Police described terror for two four-year-old cousins, a boy and girl.

"We know of at least several months that they were at times bound with zipties," said Lt. Don Whitehead, Kokomo Police.

The children's abusers went to lengths that seemed beyond belief: the children were beaten with four wooden spoons that had been glued together, locked in closets for weeks and hung by their hands on a rod.

"They were not allowed to sleep. They were made to stand up. They were beaten if they lay down," said Lt. Whitehead.

The girl's mouth was swollen with cuts and sores, her hands and arms broken and bruised. The children's mothers and two other adults face charges in connection with the case.

"Children are being so horrifically maltreated, abused, malnourished and it is a sense of horror, literally," said Sharon Pierce, The Villages president.

The Villages is the state's largest child and family service agency.  The organization also provides foster care, which it did for the children in Kokomo.

"One of our foster families, just one of the many heroic foster families, has stepped forward and agreed to care for the two young children that were so horribly, horribly abused," said Pierce.

The Villages counsels abused children too.

"These children have a very difficult time functioning in school, a very difficult time making friends, trusting adults, forming healthy relationships," said David Reid, The Villages clinical director.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, a division of The Villages, has launched a campaign to shatter the silence on child abuse. It's called Indiana Kids Can't Wait.

"They are fragile which is why they can't wait for us to figure it out. We have to step in and be bold, be active and affirm that indeed we do cherish you," said Pierce.

Kids Can't Wait features public service announcements with Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy, Colts Center Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White.

Kids Can't Wait directs parents to a phone line where they can get guidance, support and resources for positive parenting.

"You need a license to fish, a license to fly, a license to drive a car, a license to do so much, but you don't need a license to be a parent," said Dr. White. "A lot of people are not prepared for that tremendous responsibility and I think what we have to do is to assume that if parents know better, they will do better."

Community leaders involved with Kids Can't Wait also urge the community to do better to take a stand against child abuse

"Not being afraid to intervene is our biggest message and realizing that it's a part of our responsibility," said Pierce.

Kids Can't Wait was launched in the wake of the abuse and murder of three-year-old Tajanay Bailey last fall. 

"She was hung on a hook. She was punched in the chest several times, causing her to fall. She was kneed in the head by her mother all because she had defecated and urinated in her pants," said Carl Brizzi, Marion County prosecutor.

Tajanay's mother pleaded guilty to neglect.  Her mother's former fiance faces charges of murder, abuse and neglect.

"I think we owe Tajanay Bailey and the 36 children who have died in Indiana this year alone a legacy that would say, your death has not been in vain," Brizzi said.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana urges us to report child abuse, if we see it, and potentially save a child's life. Call 926-HELP to report child abuse. You can remain anonymous. You can also call that number if you are in an abusive relationship. For guidance on being a better parent, call Kids Can't Wait at 1-800-CHILDREN.

Kids Can't Wait