Stopping child abuse: 'It's not about whether we can, it's whether we will'

EUGENE, Ore. - Cutting child abuse and neglect in Lane County by 90 percent by the year 2030: Is that preposterous - or possible?

"I think yes, the answer is anything is possible," said Kelly Sutherland with the Relief Nursery.

The idea for the "90 by 30" project came 2 years ago not because existing programs don't work but because University of Oregon educators think they can work better. The project is paid for from private funds and grants. The program will be holding its first annual conference Friday and Saturday at Eugene's Valley River Inn.

"It's more the idea of taking the responsibility for that intervention away from that handful of people in government or non-profits and putting it where it belongs with each of us," said program director Phyllis Barkhurst.

So how will it work?

Barkhurst said Lane County will be divided into six zones, with local councils getting information to people on the warning signs of abuse.

"Where you know your neighbor and know that you can trust your neighbor and you can reach out to your neighbor for support; even in those neighborhoods, rates of abuse and neglect are much lower," said Dr. jeff Todahl, program co-director.

The challenge is daunting. In 2011, nearly 75,000 founded cases of child abuse or neglect were recorded in Oregon, 710 of those in Lane County.

Going hand in hand with the abuse cases are the cases of neglect, something the Relief Nursery in Eugene has to deal with every day.

"Neglect does not have to be an intentional act," Sutherland said. "It's a product of the environment and their circumstances and so we need to collectively address those issues."

Inform and mobilize: dual goals of the "90 by 30" project so that maybe horrible abuse deaths like

Jeanette Maples

in 2009 can be prevented.

"It's not about whether we can," Todahl said. "It's much more a matter of whether we will."

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