As the parent of eight and grandparent of 17, I know how precious the gift of children is — their smiles, their laughter, their curiosity, their innocence.
Yet, tragically, too many of Ohio’s more than 2.7 million children aren’t experiencing the safe, loving childhoods they deserve. An alarming number face abuse, neglect, and exploitation by strangers, acquaintances, and even family members.
I know you share my outrage.
As noted in this issue’s cover story, my office has launched a tough Crimes Against Children Initiative to crack down on sexual predators who target children. Of nearly 20,000 registered sex offenders in our state, more than half have victimized kids. Many of them are not reporting, and no doubt many others have never been caught.
With additional staff, training, and focus, my office is intensifying its efforts to root out and help prosecute these child molesters and child pornographers. I ask you to join us in that fight, and I implore you to call on us whenever we can be of assistance in your investigations and prosecutions.
Also alarming are the situations of many children entrusted to the care of Ohio’s child welfare system. Between 2005 and 2009, 160 Ohio children — 85 percent of them under the age of 5 — died of abuse or neglect while in the care of their parents or caretakers. More than a third had a prior history of being abused, and a fifth had an open child protective services case at the time of their death.
I recently held a Child Safety Summit in Cincinnati, where dozens of representatives of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems gathered to discuss how we can better protect Ohio’s children. I will hold similar events across the state this year.
My goal is simple, just as it was when — as a U.S. Senator — I fought to make the safety of children the highest priority in the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act. What is best for children in any given situation must be paramount. No matter what.
Very respectfully yours,
Ohio Attorney General
For details: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will conduct Child Safety Summits across the state in 2012. For information, contact Director of Children’s Initiatives Melinda Sykes at Melinda.Sykes@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 614-995-0328.