Sheriffs Unite To Support Child Abuse Prevention
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – More than two dozens sheriffs from throughout New York joined forces on Tuesday to combat child abuse and neglect.
An estimated 65,000 children in the state are the victims of such crimes each year.
The non-profit group, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, is seeking funding in next year’s state budget for programs that send trained professionals into at-risk homes, in an attempt to stop abuse before it happens.
“We’re here to help support this effort,” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said. “We can prevent child abuse and neglect. We’re asking for investment today from New York State.”
“Research shows that home visits prevent child mistreatment by as much as 48 percent,” said Chris Farber, Sheriffs Association president and Herkimer County sheriff. “Plus, it also prevents crime because children who are abused are more likely to commit crimes. Why would we not want to invest in this program to benefit children?”
Last year, the state budgeted $23 million for such programs. Officials are hoping to maintain this level, plus obtain a $10.5 million increase in the next budget, said Jenn O’Connor, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids state director.
Her organization supports child abuse prevention on the national level, and seeks funding for community-based programs in each state.
In New York, money in the state budget goes to programs such as Healthy Families New York that sends nurses and other trained professionals into homes to educate, train and coach expectant families and new parents.
Participants are screened to identify risk factors and stressors the family may face, such as financial difficulties, which increase the likelihood of abuse. Families who participate in the program are offered long-term in-home services until the child is in school or Head Start.
At-risk families are identified by schools and Social Services departments throughout the state.
At present, about 11,000 New York state families are served by one of four different home visiting programs.
However, O’Connor said some parts of the state are better served than others, with multiple programs to choose from, while in some places there is no home visitation program at all.
“We’d like every community to have a choice,” she said.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip C. Povero said, “We as police officers believe in prevention. We must act and stop crime before it starts.”
Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith was presented with the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids program’s annual Champion for Children Award.
“Our children are our future,” he said. “They’re our most precious resource. This program is so important to America’s future.”