When you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me. But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. (Matthew 18:5-7, The Message)
I just returned from attending Tampa's annual "Champions for Children" breakfast. The event, staged in the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, was designed to raise both awareness and dollars for the work of the Child Abuse Council.
There was a lot of information to digest. Statistics such as the fact that our abuse rate in Florida is twice the national average. That's 200%. Double. Then, as if that's not enough, we were informed that Hillsborough County ranks at first place within the state. It's a "worst of the worst" designation that rankles.
This morning's emphasis was prevention. Prevention is a gift that keeps giving. Why? Because - and here's another statistic for you - a full 90% of abused children grow up to repeat the offense as adults.
One dollar of prevention - to paraphrase the well-know aphorism - is more than equal to possibly $100,000 dollars of cure.
You think that number's inflated? Try the opposite. When I worked with emotionally disturbed middle school students my program spent some serious money. My salary, the teacher's assistant, ancillary school programs, social services, police interventions, off-site therapy - and the list goes on. Try a few well-placed dollars on early intervention, then compare the cost of not addressing the problem. I believe a ratio of a hundred grand to one dollar is anything but an exaggeration.
Back at the Champions for Children Breakfast, News Channel 8 anchor Gayle Sierens was honored for her many years of generous service to the cause. Her heart-felt acceptance speech boiled down to one key phrase. "Once you know, you cannot pretend that you don't..."
What do you know about child abuse in Hillsborough County? Or what's going on in your neck of the woods? Well, know this: Child Abuse is a scandal and a scourge, but it doesn't have to be a "fait accompli".
There is a lot that can be done and a lot that is being done. But there's so much more that should be done. Its our problem as much as theirs.