Editor's note: This is part one of a three-part series.
By MICHELE DRISCOLL
Times Staff Writer
Brazil Police Detective Mark Loudermilk said that after a little over 20 years in police work, he is beginning to see more children who were abused or neglected pass down the same abuse and neglect from generation to generation.
"The most frustrating cases are the ones in which the victim is so young that they can't tell you what happened," Loudermilk said.
He investigates almost all the sexual abuse cases, about half of the abuse cases and the more extreme neglect cases. Working with Child Protective Services, he interviews the child when he or she is old enough, gathers evidence and interviews the suspect(s) and then must decide if the case is criminal.
Terry Harrison, Brazil police chief, said 12 reports of child abuse were reported in the city last year. Seven were molestation, two were abuse and three were neglect. Sometimes calls are anonymous, sometimes they come from the schools, neighbors or relatives.
"We get calls every day. Every day. On average, a couple of times a week we get involved with an abuse case somehow, either with removal, inspection or investigation," Rob Carter, Clay County Sheriff, said.
He said some kids will call to report their parents for using drugs. It's state policy to not recognize this as child abuse or neglect, Carter said.
These men work closely with representatives of different agencies and individuals on the Child Protective Team. Also on the team are David Thomas, Clay County Prosecutor; Lynn Stoelting, school nurse; Kenny Crabb, Brazil mayor; and a group of women from the Office of Family and Child Services.
A little over 50,000 calls are received each year statewide with complaints of abuse and neglect.
"You'll see numbers go up maybe not because there are more incidents, but because people have become more aware of reporting the incidents," Cindy Collier, policy and planning director of communications for Family and Social Services, said.
She said many more calls go directly to police or local prosecutors.
"We work very closely because we overlap with what we are doing. We're often called in to investigate allegations. Our first job is to react and see that a child is safe where they are and then to prioritize the cases," Collier said. "You have to do the math. We have 735 case workers statewide."
Collier said the main goal of Family and Social Services is to get families lined up with the help they need.
"We try to raise awareness anytime we can, but often it happens as a result of a tragedy," Collier said.
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has filed a petition with the Indiana Supreme Court to stop the posting of pictures and addresses of sex and violent crime offenders registry on the Internet. It is pending for further investigation.
"If this passes, only the names will be published. It kind of defeats the purpose. But we at the Sheriff's office will respect the decision of the Indiana Supreme Court," Carter said.
In the mean time, a hard copy of all names, pictures and addresses of child molesters and other sex and violent crime offenders in the area is available at the police station for public inspection.
Listen to what children say and remember that actions can speak louder than words. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, do not take charge of the situation, but call the abuse and neglect hotline. It is 1-800-800-5556.
Court Appointed Special Advocates will be featured in the second of this three-part series in The Brazil Times.