Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore provides her thoughts on Child Abuse Prevention Month:
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Children are among the most vulnerable in our community, and we as parents, caregivers and concerned adults have a shared responsibility to provide environments that keep them safe and help them thrive. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I would like to share with you what I am doing as Westchester County District Attorney to work with our community partners to enhance the safety of children.
Child abuse can take many forms, from neglect to physical and sexual assaults. Neglect can include a parent’s failure to provide proper nutrition, hygiene and medical care, or to ensure that the child attends school regularly. Child abuse involves more immediate harm to children, including physical and sexual abuse by a parent or other adult.
The Child Abuse Bureau of my office handles every criminal offense perpetrated against a child victim here in Westchester County including child abuse and sex crimes committed against children. Last year, the Bureau prosecuted over three hundred criminal cases involving child victims. These specially trained prosecutors and aides who are assigned to handle these cases also receive daily reports from the state’s child abuse hotline (the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment).
Every report indicating a child safety issue is referred to local law enforcement. In child abuse cases involving allegations of serious physical assaults, sexual abuse or child fatalities, Assistant District Attorneys in the Child Abuse Bureau work with a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT), which includes law enforcement, medical and social service professionals.
The heart of the MDT is the Westchester Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), where the necessary interviews and medical examinations of child victims take place in a child-friendly, supportive environment. The Westchester CAC has been recognized for its high level of medical care and the MDT has received recognition for achieving the highest standards for the investigation of child abuse cases.
Our child abuse bureau also works proactively to prevent crimes against children and child fatalities. Since 2006, Westchester County has brought together the resources of the county’s medical, child protective and law enforcement professionals to carefully review any suspicious or unexplained death of a child with our Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT).
The work of the CFRT often includes a public education component to share the lessons learned about products or practices that were associated with a child’s death, in order to avoid similar, preventable deaths in the future. Our work has resulted in recommendations on safe sleeping practices for babies, the improper use of nursing pillows, bath seats and infant walkers, and securing heavy objects such as televisions to prevent them from toppling over onto a child.
You can help us in our efforts to protect children. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, call the New York State child abuse hotline (1-800-342-3720) or your local police department. Your report will allow law enforcement and child protection professionals to use their skills and expertise to determine whether a child is safe in his or her environment. If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
For more information, including all CFRT public reports, please visit www.westchesterda.net . For a speaker on child safety, please contact the District Attorney’s Office at 914-995-3317.