By Assemblyman Will Barclay
This month is Child Abuse Awareness Month. Local agencies as well as social workers, school district employees, law enforcement officials, daycare and health care workers help protect and identify abused children. By law, workers in these fields are mandated reporters, which means when they spot signs of abuse, they are required to report it to authorities. I applaud all who fulfill their duties to this end. It’s not an easy thing to intervene in a family’s life, but when it is for the good of the child, mandated reporters are often the only ones in a position that can save a child from an abusive situation.
As all parents and caregivers can attest, raising a child is not easy. After a child is born, some parents decide they don’t have the capacity or resources to care properly for a child. In 2000, New York passed the Abandoned Infant Protection Act. It was passed to protect the lives of unwanted, newborn infants. This act allows a newborn baby up to 30 days of age to be abandoned by its parent in a safe manner. According to the New York State Child and Family Services web site, “A parent is not guilty of a crime if the infant is left with an appropriate person or in a suitable location and the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person of the infant’s location. A hospital, staffed police or fire station are examples of safe and suitable locations. A person leaving the infant is not required to give his or her name.”
In 2010 the law was amended to include children 30 days or younger. When it first passed, the child had to be 5 days old or younger to be abandoned in this manner. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this law and this year, there was a tragedy in Central New York when a mother of an infant child left the baby in a dumpster. The baby later died. That mother is being charged with murder. However, when the law is implemented, babies can be placed in a home to be adopted by a family. Local couples have been paired with abandoned infants through this act, and, thanks to the law, the couples were able to adopt the children through New York State agencies. Parents of older children who find themselves overwhelmed by their parental responsibilities may call the New York State Parent Connection Hotline at 1-800-345-5437. Those interested in adoption should visit the New York State Office of Child and Family Services website at www.ocfs.state.ny.us/adopt. More than 1,000 children across the state are waiting to be matched with an adoptive family.
Local Agencies Help Victims of Abuse
Two of the local agencies that specialize in working with abused children are the Child Advocacy Center in Oswego County and the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Site in Onondaga County. Both agencies do important work in the communities they serve and help get services to victims of abuse and neglect. In Syracuse, McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Site will move into a new building in June that will house about 50 people including doctors, police officers, child abuse advocates, county case workers and mental health therapists so professionals may collaborate more.
This month, both agencies have special events planned to raise awareness within the community to help protect children. McMahon Ryan has a pinwheel project. They encourage local people to participate and raise awareness by displaying pinwheels throughout businesses, schools, gardens, and parks. For information, call 315-701-2985 or visit www.mcmahonryan.org. In Oswego County, the Child Advocacy Center will host “Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger” on April 28 at their new location, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 301 Beech St., Fulton. There will also be a 5K run to raise awareness April 9 at 1:30 p.m. starting in the lobby of Hart Hall, at SUNY Oswego. For information, call 315-592-4453 or visit www.oswegocac.org.
The Child Advocacy Center and the Oswego County Child Protection Advisory Council will also host a series of town hall meetings to try and help people answer the following questions: What can we, as a community, do to keep our children safe? What should I do if I suspect a child is abused or neglected? What is the role of Department of Social Services? How Can I have an impact?
Here is a list of dates and locations for these town hall meetings. The meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.:
· April 13, Scriba Town Justice Center, Creamery Road, Scriba.
· April 28, Fulton Municipal Building, 141 South First St., Fulton.
· May 3, Millard Hawk Primary School Cafeteria, Central Square.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.