New group tries to stem child abuse


Mary Armstrong-Smith from Prevent Child Abuse Indiana awards NET president Jeff Allen with an official charter certificate at a press conference Wednesday at the Broadview Learning Center. County and city employees gathered for a press conference announcing the creation of a Bloomington chapter of Prevent Child Abuse NET to create neighborhood-based prevention solutions to child abuse. Samantha Schmidt Buy Photos

He announced the formation of Nurture Engage and Transform, the Bloomington chapter of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, an organization working to prevent child abuse and neglect in Indiana.

“The aim is simple,” said Allen, president of NET. “To fully realize the vision of Monroe County and Bloomington by addressing the common stresses that can lead to abuse and neglect.”

The Bloomington chapter specially selected the name NET.

“We liked the image of a net, the security of having a safety net,” Allen said. “It speaks to what our chapter wants to adhere to.”

Mayor Mark Kruzan spoke at the event, reflecting on his past work to combat child abuse.

“I’m happy to see how much has happened since then, but one glaring issue remains, and that is fatalities,” Kruzan said.

“When you have 30 to 50 fatalities a year on your hands, that’s a crisis.”

He spoke about the costs of child abuse — the loss of life, the opportunities lost and the costs to social services.

“This is done for the generation of children that will suffer if nothing is done,” he said.
The Asset Building Coalition of Monroe County and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office collaborated to form the new chapter.

Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Gaal proposed the idea of forming the Bloomington chapter to ABC.

He recalled the child abuse and neglect cases he encountered during the years.

“It was a terrible tragedy when a child was hurt in the community,” he said.
“We need to do something to prevent those terrible cases from happening in the first place.”

He spoke about recent initiatives to prevent child abuse, such as the formation of Susie’s Place, a child advocacy center in Bloomington.

He hopes the new chapter will not only respond to the problem of child abuse, but also prevent new occurrences.

“We have to be always thinking about more than our response,” Gaal said. “We have to think about how to get out in front of the problem.”

Emily Perry, director of Susie’s Place, said she hopes to continue working with NET.

She said the need for prevention is exemplified by the increase in cases Susie’s Place has seen in the past years — from 31 cases in 2010 to 169 cases in 2012.

“We don’t want to meet those kids,” she said. “The key is to get them before they ever get to that point.”

Mary Armstrong-Smith, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana community partners director, presented the Bloomington council with their official charter.

“There are all kinds of people, artists, mechanics (and) cashiers that can do something in our community that can make it less likely for a child to be hurt,” she said. “Our communities are interconnected. They are woven together. That’s why the process of getting together is crucial.”

Allen said the chapter plans to begin the year by partnering with the Broadview Neighborhood Association.

He said this partnership will focus on the needs of the neighborhood and create a strong model to expand to other neighborhoods in the future.

“We’re not doing this because it’s easy, we are doing this because it is hard and it is necessary,” he said.

To report an incident of child abuse or neglect in Monroe County, Monroe county child services can be contacted at 812-336-6351.

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