After presenting three town halls to highlight the reserach and recommendations in the United Way's Stay in School Report, YorkCounts moves to a new subject for a community conversation.
On the evening of June 10, we'll bring together a wide swath of local professionals, advocates and government officials to start the work of developing a coordinated plan for reducing child abuse in York County. We're doing this now because of two things that happened around the same time in April.
First, the York Daily Record/Sunday News produced a documentary to mark the first anniversary of the death of Darisabel Baez, a 2-year-old girl who was killed in a horrific case of child abuse. That documentary, "Carrying Darisabel," by YDR photographer Jason Plotkin, presents the stories of the first responders who were involved in Darisabel's case - the police officers, EMTs and hospital workers. It's a powerful film.
Shortly after that, the state released its latest child abuse numbers. And once again, the number of cases in York County is tragically high. The number of confirmed cases has remained around 150 for the past four years, and the rate of cases per 100,000 has has hovered close to 35 for the past four years. That happened while the state numbers have come down.
The combination prompted us to move. Our approach is to use the data to spotlight an issue of community concern, bring people together to talk about the issue, then find a community partner willing to take the lead on working toward solutions. We hope to begin that process with this town hall meeting.
What programs do we have in York County right now that work? Which ones would be more efffective with more resources? Can we give more help to new parents? How do we catch the signs of abuse earlier? How do we let friends and neighbors know it's OK for them to report something that looks suspicious?
These are some of the questions we want people to talk about. And we hope that people can bring the highest levels of honesty and respect to the conversation. We don't want finger pointing or blaming.
This is truly about finding ways to protect those among us who are least able to protect themselves. So mark you calendar: 6 p.m. June 10, at the York Jewish Community Center. We hope you'll be there and be part of the conversation.
- Dan Fink