Child welfare advocate: 'See something, say something'
The loss of a child is always heartbreaking, according to Angela Liddle, but a situation like the 3-year-old allegedly killed by her mother Wednesday could be avoided in the future if neighbors really know what's going on in the house.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance said, and not everyone is equipped to handle the strains it can put on a person physically, mentally and emotionally.
"It's a cliche, but it really does take a village," she said. "There needs to be community involvement. It's really easy to sit on the outside and make judgments of someone else's family."
Liddle wouldn't talk specifics about the case of 3-year-old victim Isabel Rose Godfrey, whose mother, Regina Lester, is charged with homicide, child endangerment and making terroristic threats.
However, Liddle said having some compassion for the parent is necessary. Not every kind of abuse is physical, either, she said.
"Physical abuse sometimes is a no-brainer," Liddle said. "There's a lot of gray area in family dynamics, though. There could be something else going on that you don't see."
Reporting: Liddle said the best way to approach child abuse is to use the Transportation Security Administration's unofficial motto: "See something, say something."
People avoid reporting things because they're afraid of being wrong, Liddle said. They are afraid they'll make things worse for the child involved or make the issue worse for the family.
"They're afraid they'll cause embarrassment for the kid or for the family or for themselves," she said. "But I tell people, 'Can you really point to times where your gut steered you wrong?'"
According to research from the alliance, people who take the mandated reporting training through the group are five times more likely to report when they see child abuse. Those reports tend to have more detail and are of higher quality and accuracy, Liddle said.
"If you don't make the call, who will?" she said. "More often than not, you hear people who say 'I knew there wasn't something right there.'
"That's not OK."
The Lehman Center: Liddle was the director of The Lehman Center in York City years ago. Jan Zeigler, interim executive director of the Children's Aid Society, pointed to the work The Lehman Center does.
"We have a crisis nursery that takes children, from newborns to age 6, in when parents need it," Zeigler said. "We provide a safe place for the child to stay while parents are going to doctors appointments or other things that a normal support system would help with."
From July 2014 to June 2015, the crisis nursery took in 185 children in the area. Ninety-eight percent of the children were from families meeting the federal poverty criterion.
The Lehman Center also does art therapy for children, helping 204 children from age 3 to 18 cope with whatever is going on in their lives. It has parenting support groups as well.
"Most of these people don't have a traditional support system," Zeigler said. "We are that support system for them. We're the ones who step up for these people. We have a wonderful group of volunteers that helps with this."
How to help: Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected is urged by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance to call the state's ChildLine at (800) 932-0313.