By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Holding a toy robot, a 6-year-old boy reached for a belt and yelled out, “I told you not to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. Now, I’m going to beat you for peeing on yourself!”
His 4-year-old brother joined in the re-enactment and asked, “Did he wet the bed?”
Childtime fun was an imitation of the children’s reality.
Both boys were placed into foster care, after their mother’s parental rights were terminated for allowing her live-in boyfriend to physically abuse the children.
For two years, the boys endured the abuse until a family member called Child Protective Services.
Their mother continuously denied the charges and made excuses to protect her boyfriend over her children. Several attempts were made to reunite her with her children. Ultimately, the children were placed in foster care and her rights were permanently terminated.
“I don’t understand how a woman can put a man over her child,” the foster parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. “The children suffered abuse at the hands of a man, who wasn’t even their father. Their mother stood by and said nothing. She was afraid that the man would leave her, if she spoke up. She sacrificed her children for the love of a man.”
Childhelp.org reports that 3.6 million referrals are made to CPS every year. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
According to results of the National Incidence Study, conducted by Westat, a private research firm, the perpetrator in about one out of four cases of physical child abuse is the boy/girlfriend of a parent.
Nightmares of the abuse 18-year-old Journey experienced as a child still plagues her today.
“I can remember how my mother’s boyfriend beat me and my brother with a thick belt, until we had marks going up and down our legs,” she said. “I don’t know which was worse – the beatings or my mother watching and not doing anything to stop him. She never said a word and would go to bed with him, after we were beat. It didn’t stop until I showed my grandmother the bruises. She stepped in to protect us, when my mother wouldn’t. She was able to get custody of us and freed us from our suffering.”
Termination of parental rights is rare in Michigan. It occurs in extreme circumstances, under Adoption Code MCL 710.21, when a step-parent adoption is to take place or under Juvenile Code MCL 712.A1, if the child will experience harm if left in a parent’s custody.
Although some mothers seek to hide their abusive boyfriend’s or husband’s actions by forbidding their children to speak about the abuse, there are some obvious signs that others can take note of.
The Child Abuse Prevention Center offers the following possible signs of child abuse and neglect:
• Unexplained injuries. Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.
• Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
• Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.
• Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
• Changes in eating. The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
• Changes in sleeping. Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
• Changes in school performance and attendance. Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.
• Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America) is reportedly the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.
“We will undoubtedly move closer to our ultimate goal of providing every child an equal and attainable opportunity for healthy growth and development,” added Andrea Robertson, of PCA America, said. “Our vision is a nation in which no child is ever abused or neglected, and we believe that with help from the public, policymakers and corporate partners this idea can become a reality.”
For some children, their reality is a home filled with terror. They’re unable to run into the arms of their mother for love and protection.
“Mothers are supposed to instill in their children a sense of self worth from how she cares for and nurtures her child. She should protect and shield her children from any pain or harm,” the foster parent added. “Unfortunately, my boys’ mother did not show any empathy and sadly, didn’t have a conscience. The price of having a man in her life was apparently worth more than her children.”
And, that’s the sad consequence of Child Sacrifices.