Every day our advocates and case coordinators work feverishly to evaluate cases in which a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect. Our main concern is always to find what is in a child’s best interest.
But, what about the events leading up to these cases? Who answers the calls and has to make the reports and heart-wrenching decisions?
Chances are, if abuse isn’t directly reported to a child welfare agency, the police are called to intervene.
Never an easy job, the officers in blue not only answer the call, but must also evaluate a situation on the spot to determine if a child is subjected to dangerous conditions or completely safe in their home.
This job is nothing short of dangerous and difficult and takes real community superheroes to handle.
You may recall on that hot, late spring day when CASA of CGS held its Superhero 5K Run/Walk, we were gifted the presence of a police force in order to protect our participants from oncoming traffic and anything else that may have jumped in the way. Because the route was a mix of both Glassboro and Pitman, we were fortunate enough to have both police departments present.
In order to hold an event such as this, a lot of behind the scenes footwork must be done in order to ensure the safety of not only the residents and participants, but the motorists as well. Sergeant Gregg Owens of the Pitman Police Department is the man behind the decisions and directions when these events are held. Not a stranger to traffic control and safety during events, he handles about 20 events a year.
While runners and walkers donned superhero costumes of all sorts, our community superheroes came fully decked out in their superhero attire worn on a daily basis.
If you haven’t been to Pitman before, let me explain how it’s the prime example of showing child abuse and neglect are not limited to low-income areas alone. Pitman is quiet, quaint and small, showcasing beautiful homes raised with a rich history to back them. Every area has crime, of course, just some more than others. Pitman is one of those places where you wouldn’t expect much. Residents stay for lifetimes, with families knowing each other’s names as they pass on the street or in a store. It’s most definitely a place where you’d want to raise a family. But, not exempt from issues that every town or borough faces, the Pitman Police Department executes calls in an orderly fashion and handles them appropriately. According to Sergeant Owens, the numbers are unfortunately on the rise. With a past call volume averaging 9 to 10,000 a year, they’re already at 7,000 and it’s only August.
We know that there’s a link between domestic violence and child abuse, but what does an officer do when he or she arrives at the scene?
“A lot of times they (child abuse cases) stem from going to a domestic violence scene, then it gets discovered by the officer, the officer’s then required to go through the guidelines with DYFS and the State Attorney General’s guidelines to make the appropriate phone calls to advise them to investigate. If not, an immediate removal (may be necessary) … Every situation’s different. The main thing we focus on is that we obviously don’t want to see anything happen to that child after we leave there. We’ll do what we have to do. … We’re looking out for their best interest.”
Although Sgt. Owens says the department doesn’t face many cases where a child must be removed, they average five to 10 domestic violence calls a week with over 50 percent of these calls having children present. If faced with a removal, they make the referral and allow for a Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P – formerly DYFS) case worker to come investigate it.
It is quite apparent that children and a positive welfare are important not only to the community members, but to the Pitman PD as well. Each officer has his/her own card very similar to that of a sports star. Given out to children, they add that personal touch of reassurance. Feeling safe and protected is a huge deal for a child. Not only that, but having someone to look up to is fantastic.
Sergeant Owens and the entire Pitman Police Department, you are Community Superheroes. Protecting and selflessly serving our community day in and day out isn’t easy and you still find the time to make child welfare a priority.
Thoughts, comments, questions? Email me, JennKaysen@gmail.com
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If you’re interested in learning more about CASA of CGS, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Cumberland County ranked last place in Child Welfare in New Jersey. Let’s stand up for our children and do something about it! Visit www.wespeakupforchildren.org for more information and follow us on Facebook for daily updates and information.
Do you know of a Community Superhero?
Help CASA of CGS recognize the effort put forth by them to improve our community! Email Jennifer Kaysen at Jennkaysen@gmail.com. Be sure to share this post with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter to reach a bit further and find our Superheroes!