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Single Parents: Who is Watching Your Child?

September 14, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Child abuse typically comes at the hand of a parent, but experts say that far too often a child is abused or even killed when left in the care of a parent's boyfriend or girlfriend. In Ohio, the "Choose Your Partner Carefully" campaign is spreading the message that when you choose a partner for yourself, you are choosing one for your child as well.

The initiative originated with Lorain County Children's Services, where spokeswoman PattiJo Burtnett says they discovered seven percent of child abuse and neglect incidents were cases in which the mother's boyfriend was the alleged abuser.

"There is a significant percentage in which this becomes a very volatile and hostile, abusive, and sometimes very tragic situation for the children involved."

Burtnett says they noticed many of the children were injured or even killed through shaking or blunt force trauma because the child wouldn't stop crying or was perceived to be misbehaving. And she says many caretakers don't have the same connection and investment in the child that a parent has.

"These are clearly people who are not capable or able or interested in taking care of small children, who sometimes have very demanding needs."

Burtnett says they are getting great feedback on the campaign, especially from grandparent groups.

"They appreciate these materials as a way to sort of bring that subject up or at least be able to better look out for the grandchildren, even if their child is making what they perceive to be poor choices in terms of boyfriends or girlfriends."

The campaign is providing data and educational tools to children's services agencies throughout the state so they can help to educate their communities about the problem. It is also working to educate parents about available child care options. So far, about half of the counties in Ohio are involved.

More information is available at www.pcsao.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH