No Excuse for Child Abuse
"German Hipatl: 8 months old. Suffocated."
"Mirabelle Yang: 7 weeks old. Cooked in microwave."
Printed upon signs small enough for a child to carry, the tragic deaths of these and many other children throughout California were paraded around Marie Kerr Park in Palmdale on April 27 as part of the 7th Annual Darion Wheat Walk Against Child Abuse.
More than 100 children, parents and other adults came together, including about a dozen from Best Start Palmdale and Lancaster. Their message was chanted across the park: "There's no excuse for child abuse!"
"It's important because . . . we don't want little kids to die," said 5-year-old Denveera Ogletree of Palmdale.
"One of our goals is to protect children from child abuse and neglect," said Omar DeLeon, one of the Best Start Lancaster parents. Best Start gave $1,000 to help sponsor the walk, which was organized by Yes2Kids.
The walk was created seven years ago in part as a response to the death of 5-year-old Darion Wheat, who was beaten to death in Kern County by his mother's boyfriend because he was unable to tie his shoes.
Many of the marchers wore t-shirts that read, "Have You Hugged Your Child Today?"
"Child abuse is a big problem in the Antelope Valley, so Best Start Lancaster members chose to focus communications work developing strategies around increasing community awareness about this issue as well as promoting behaviors that are counter to abuse and neglect, hence the ‘Have You Hugged Your Child Today?' campaign," said Best Start Program Officer Ellaine Hartley.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the rate of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 2010 in Lancaster was more than three-and-a-half times the average rate in Los Angeles County. In addition, substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in Lancaster rose from 39 per 1,000 in 2008 to 57 per 1,000 in 2010.
"We have close to 2,100 kids in foster care that have been removed from their homes," said Lesley Yadon, community liason for Children's Bureau, a child welfare organization in L.A. County. "They say for every one child removed from a home, there are four more being abused."
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