Thank you to The Olympian for reminding us that everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse. I am horrified by the prevalence of egregious acts against children, such as those in Ocean Shores and Pierce County. And I am deeply troubled by the increase in child abuse cases referred to the Thurston County prosecutor’s office this year.
Law enforcement is most often thought of as a first responder in these cases, but we are also active in efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. For several years, police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors in Thurston County and throughout Washington have advocated for more investments in home visiting programs.
These voluntary programs are a proven way to provide at-risk young parents with effective tools to raise their children in safe, healthy and nurturing environments. Although we have home visiting programs in Thurston County, they only serve a small fraction of eligible families due to lack of funding. This is true in the rest of the state, as well.
I recognize that legislators had many priorities to consider as they prepared their proposed budgets and appreciate that both the House and Senate included a small increase for home visiting. But given the potential for these programs to prevent the kinds of tragedies that recently occurred to the north and west of us, I urge the legislature to make significant new investments in home visiting in the 2013-15 budget.
This is the role they can play in preventing child abuse.