Deb Gordon’s guest was Stephen Forrester, Esq., Director of Government Relations at the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), which is the first child protective agency in the world and strives to meet the urgent needs of New York City’s most vulnerable children and help keep them safe from abuse and neglect.
Child abuse impacts kids and teenagers of all races and economic groups and Mr. Forrester provided data about the disturbing numbers: “In 2014, which are the latest figures that we have, the amount of reports was up to 1,890,000 – so that’s an increase in 4 years of 190,000 reports confirmed nationally.”
Unfortunately there are far too many local news stories of children being seriously injured or murdered by abusive adults, including Zymere Perkins, the 6 year old New Yorker who lost his life at the hands of his abusers.
In many cases, the problems abused kids face are known to child service agencies, and they still end up dead, and Mr. Forrester discussed that issue and also the changes that are being implemented to help prevent future similar scenarios.
“The child protective system and in particular ACS here in NYC, can’t effectively work in a vacuum, it has to work in coordination with other agencies, community members and community organizations… such as the educational system, mental health, law enforcement, the shelter system for homeless families – and if we step up that coordination…I think we can do a much better job at preventing cases like the two unfortunate little boys.”
“I was very pleased to hear today that the NYC Council has just announced it’s going to be holding oversight hearings of the child protective systems…looking at how not only ACS responded in this situation, but the police department, the department of education, dept. of homeless services, because these agencies did have contact with Zymere and his family…perhaps if there was better coordination among those agencies, we might have had a different outcome for that young boy.” **
Also discussed were NYSPCC’s ‘Safe Touches’ program which is designed to teach kids how to recognize and report sexual abuse and “unsafe” touches.
“We provide sex abuse prevention training to children in grades K-3 in the public schools and to date, we have trained thousands and thousands of children in public school on issues and knowledge in skills on how to keep themselves safe from unsafe touches including sexual abuse,” said Forrester.
“We use puppets – we use adult dolls and child dolls to show a safe touch, contrasting that with an unsafe touch.”
The NYSPCC will hold its annual Food and Wine fundraiser featuring Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern on Monday, November 14th to help raise funds and awareness for the issue.
Proceeds from the Food & Wine Gala will support The NYSPCC’s Trauma Recovery Program which offers a specialized therapeutic program for children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, neglect, traumatic bereavement, or who have witnessed family violence.
In addition, The NYSPCC provides legal services and advocacy work; and also offers educational services – teaching parents, educators, and mental health professionals how to best help prevent child abuse and neglect.
The NYSPCC not only believes that child abuse and neglect are preventable, but that protecting children is everyone’s responsibility.
“Anybody can report – a citizen, a friend, a family member,” said Forrester. “People should feel morally compelled to do it.”
“You can report anonymously… and the number to call is 1-800-342-3720…The law is designed to encourage reporting. People need to understand that the law will protect them,” said Forrester.
For more information about ways to recognize child abuse, the common signs and symptoms, and what to do if you suspect it, visit www.nyspcc.org. .
**Update: After this taping several New York City officials and agency workers were suspended in connection to the death of Zymere Perkins.