Grand County ‘Culture of Silence’ leads to senseless suffering
April 25, 2008
In recent weeks, the Sky-Hi Daily News has published two horrific stories of child abuse.
On April 21, we published “Grand Lake couple pleads guilty to attempted child abuse of infant,” wherein an infant entered the foster care system after she was sent to Children’s Hospital in Denver at 5-weeks-old with multiple injuries ” including a skull fracture and broken ribs, leg and ankle.
In Dr. Andrew Sirotnak’s evaluation of the baby’s injuries, he testified that her rib fractures were probably “due to the child’s chest being squeezed too hard.” He also said the fracture to her femur was “very typical of a baby’s leg being grabbed too hard” which usually “happens when someone is angry during a diaper change” and the “anger is taken out on the baby.”
On Jan. 30, we published another tragic story, “Foster mother arrested in death of Grand Lake 3-year-old.”
According to police reports at the time, the child died apparently as a result of head injuries suffered at her Grand Lake foster home on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
For our small community newspaper pages to see two such violent incidents involving small children in such a short amount of time, prompted much discussion among our editorial board about the circumstances that make this kind of tragedy possible.
Children face abuse at home and, in some cases, in the child welfare system that was created to protect them.
Child advocates point to the state, who they believe should revise laws governing the treatment of children at home and in the foster care system, and to the Department of Human Services, which is supposed to watch over the children that enter the system once they are taken from unsafe homes.
But pointing a finger at state officials from our position in Grand County will do little good to help local children who are suffering.
Instead, we believe it is time to point a finger at a cultural failing in the rural West and our small towns that we have come to term “Grand County’s Culture of Silence.”
In the West, many subscribe to the motto: Live and Let Live.
And in small communities, we tend to protect each other and, more importantly, protect each other’s privacy.
But in the case of child abuse, privacy is no longer a right or a privilege.
When a child is born or brought into this county, they are in our care. And when it comes to the welfare of these, our most vulnerable community members, silence cannot be an option.
We must become a community that holds people accountable for hurting its children. And by ending our “Culture of Silence,” perhaps there will be fewer stories for this newspaper to tell about Grand County children robbed of their childhoods.
To report child abuse and neglect, contact Grand County Social Services at (970) 725-3331. After hours, call (970) 725-3311.