Justice for Children: Prevention efforts start early - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Justice for Children: Prevention efforts start early

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Just in the last year, there have been two high profile court cases in eastern Iowa in the deaths of 2 children where police suspected a caregiver committed the crime.

Two-year-old Skylar Inman died in 2008. Inman's mother, Briana Volesky and her boyfriend Lee Muldoon were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child neglect last month. Four-year-old Collin Holdgrafer died in June after drowning in a bathtub. His adoptive mother Danielle Holdgrafer awaits trial on child endangerment charges.

In nearly every child abuse case, it brings up questions. Did someone know the child was in danger? If so, why didn't they report it?

"Protecting children is everyone's business," said Stephen Scott.

Scott Is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. He coordinates state efforts with 65 local agencies throughout the state. The goal is to stop child abuse before it happens.

"Getting things right from the start, getting children and parents lives together to a good start is something that will save us further along the line so we would argue for preserving and enhancing prevention efforts," Scott said.

In most central Iowa hospitals and some in eastern Iowa, prevention efforts start early. DVDs are handed to new parents called "The Period of Purple Crying." It tells parents crying is a normal part of infancy. It's a resource intended to keep stress levels low and stop the potential for abuse well before it ever starts.

In Black Hawk County, Family & Children's Council pursues prevention efforts. Julie Pitzen is the executive director. One of the main sources of frustration for her is hearing of cases of abuse that could have been reported earlier.

"When I've made a report and I didn't think it was anything very big, it turned out to be something very important, so the bottom line is always make the report and let the professionals decide which ones can be followed up on and which ones should not, " said Pitzen.

Those professionals are in Des Moines at the Department of Human Services. A reorganized department now means all calls are handled by intake workers at a central location in the capitol city. They make the decision whether to launch an investigation locally. Three factors determine that - whether the victim is a child, the alleged abuser is a caretaker, and whether it is abuse or neglect if proven true. Then comes the hard part.

"Social work is an art as well as a science. Every social worker knows he can use all the tools at his disposal, make the right call, and the case can still go south," said DHS spokesman Roger Munns.

Eighty percent of child abuse cases in Iowa are not physical violence, but neglect.


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