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Saturday event seeks to raise awareness about child abuse

Staff Photo/Joe Shearer

This article is written by Jon Leu. It was posted on April 15, 2018.

Some 50 residents of Council Bluffs and Omaha gathered in the Tom Hanafan Rivers Edge Park Pavilion on a cold, blustery and damp Saturday morning as the mayors of Council Bluffs, Omaha and Boys Town read proclamations establishing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Those attending were initially scheduled to meet at the center of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, but the session was moved to the pavilion because of the weather — a change of plans that pleased Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, who commented that the bridge tends to "sway a bit in the wind," which, she quipped, is sometimes a "nauseating" condition.

In her proclamation, Stothert noted that the statistics tell a "terrible story."

"Nearly four million cases of child maltreatment are reported each year in the United States; nearly five children die each day from abuse," she said. "Over 50 percent of these children are under the age of three. Still, these estimates are known to be under-reported."

Like Stothert, who noted "Child abuse prevention is a community responsibility," Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh said, "Child abuse is a community issue, and finding solutions depends on involvement and partnerships among people throughout the community."

Boys Town Mayor Ti'Jaih Davis joined Walsh and Stothert in calling for partnerships among parents, practitioners, schools, faith communities, health care organizations, law enforcement agencies, community leaders, politicians and the business community to protect and support children, collaborate with professionals and engage the community to end child abuse and neglect.

"Iowa's children are one of the most precious resources in our state and provide the hope for a brighter tomorrow in Iowa," Walsh said. "Protecting children is everyone's business.

"All citizens need to be more aware of child abuse and neglect and its prevention within the community," he said, and be involved in supporting parents to raise their children in a safe, nurturing society.

Walsh noted that several agencies, including Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, the Prevent Child Abuse committee of Promise Partners, Pottawattamie County's Alliance for Children and Families and the Shaken Baby Task Force have joined forces here to raise public awareness regarding child abuse and neglect.

Patricia Russmann, executive director of Promise Partners in Council Bluffs, said Saturday's event was the fifth annual gathering for Proclamation on the Bridge. She said gathering in the center of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge symbolizes the combined efforts of agencies on both sides of the river in combatting child abuse and neglect, a problem that knows no state lines.

In thanking those from various organizations attending the event for their efforts to combat child abuse and neglect, Russmann highlighted the ongoing efforts of Bikers Against Child Abuse for that organization's continued strong support.