Wooden tombstones, painted either pink or blue, were aligned in the lobby of the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City last Friday (April 22). Each marker represented a little boy or girl who had died in Jackson County during the last decade due to child abuse or neglect.
There were 75 of the symbolic memorials. Rather than a name some simply read, "Unknown."
Jackson County hosted Operation Breakthrough's "Day of Remembrance" to join the local non-profit organization in calling attention to Child Abuse Awareness Month. Jim Kanatzar, Jackson County Prosecutor, urged anyone who believes any child might be suffering from abuse or neglect to contact the proper authorities.
Kanatzar said, "You need to know what the signs of child abuse and neglect are, and you need to report them when you feel or suspect that a child -- a neighbor, a relative, even a stranger -- may be suffering from child abuse."
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has compiled an in-depth report entitled "Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect: Signs and Symptoms." According to the report, some tell-tale signs of abuse may be noticeable in both the behavior of a child and the parent(s):
- Does the child show sudden changes in behavior or school performance?
- Has the child not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention?
- Has the child developed learning problems or difficulty concentrating that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes?
- Is the child always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen?
- Does the child lack adult supervision?
- Is the child overly compliant, passive or withdrawn?
- Does the child come to school or other activities early, stay late or does not want to go home?
- Does the parent show little concern for the child?
- Does the parent deny the existence of -- or blame the child for -- the child's problems in school or at home?
- Does the parent ask the teacher or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves?
- Does the parent see the child as entirely bad, worthless or burdensome?
- Does the parent demand a level of physical or academic performance that the child cannot achieve?
- Does the parent look to the child for care, attention and satisfaction of emotional needs?
- Do the parent and child rarely touch or look at each other?
- Do the parent and child consider their relationship entirely negative?
- Do the parent and child state that they do not like each other?
Other speakers April 22 included Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, community activist Alvin Brooks and Operation Breakthrough co-founder Sister Berta Sailor.