By MARIA JONES
BEARS, BEARS AND MORE BEARS: Bears of all sizes and colors represented 1,218 children who were abused last year in Tulsa at the ceremony to kick-off Child Abuse Month recently. The bears covered the entire jury box of Presiding District Judge Tom Gillert’s courtroom and flowed over into the first row of the spectator seats.
MARIA JONES for GTR Newspapers
Child Abuse and neglect is a serious threat to Tulsa’s children. Just how serious was graphically displayed in Presiding District Judge Tom Gillert’s courtroom during a ceremony to kick-off April as child abuse month.
Teddy bears, 1,218 to be exact, represented children who were abused last year in Tulsa. The bears filled the jury box and flowed into the first row of the Tulsa County Courtroom.
Four local organizations, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), The Parent Child Center (PCC), Child Abuse Network (CAN) and Family & Children’s Services (F&CS), joined together to call attention to the importance of preventing these tragedies and all forms of child maltreatment.
At the ceremony, District Judge Deborah Shallcross and Gillert welcomed volunteers and staff of the four participating agencies, who offer a “Light of Hope” to children who are abused or neglected.
“Each one of those bears represents a child who was physically abused, sexually abused or severely neglected by their parents or a caretaker last year,” Shallcross says. “These are the very, very worst cases. Every one of these bears represents a child who is going to struggle to reach his or her potential.”
Shallcross gave statistics and talked about the effects that abuse and neglect have on children, such as poor performance in school, medical problems, use of alcohol or drugs. Some children even engage in criminal activity. She says without help, they grow into adults with the same problems.
“They will struggle to become loving and nurturing parents of the next generation,” Shallcross says.
According to Shallcross, the cost of investigation, prosecution, treatment and lost productivity due to child abuse is approximately $94 billion annually.
“We want to ensure that our children are safe in their homes and safe from child abuse and neglect,” Shallcross added. “It takes a comprehensive, community commitment with coordinated strategies to do this. Churches, synagogues, mosques, extended families, professionals and all citizens have a responsibility and vested interest in preventing child abuse.”
Among those in attendance were Claudette Selph, executive director, The Parent Child Center; Roy Van Tassell, trauma specialist, Family & Children’s Services; Marilyn Loucks, executive director, Court Appointed Special Advocates; District Judge Doris Fransien; Barbara Findeiss, executive director, Child Abuse Network; Tulsa Police Chief Dave Been; and Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris.