Experts call on the community to end child abuse
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - 837. That's how many Arizona children died in 2010.
But the really gut wrenching number is 295. That is how many of those kids should be alive today.
For almost two decades, the state has been keeping track of how many Arizonans under the age of 18 have died and, more importantly, how they died.
The reason? To identify the biggest threats to our children and do something about it before it is too late.
The latest Department of Health Services report, released Wednesday, shows where we are both succeeding. and failing.
According to the report, the number one killer of kids in 2011 involves drugs and alcohol.
It is followed closely by medical conditions resulting in premature births.
But the most surprising is suicide, which saw a dramatic jump from the previous year. In fact, more kids killed themselves in 2011 than drowned, and bullying played a big role in that.
And while that is disturbing in and of itself, the number three killer of our kids will make you sick: child abuse.
Child safety experts tell 9 OYS it takes a team effort to keep kids alive and safe.
Case in point: little Za'Naya Flores.
Back in January, paramedics found the body of the 21 month-old girl bruised, scarred, and severly malnurished.
Even though she was almost 2 years old, she weighed just 15 pounds.
The person responsible, according to police? Her own mother.
Weeks later at her funeral, loved ones stood by in disbelief.
"I never saw any abuse. I've seen her always being happy."
A regret, experts have heard before.
But even when the signs are there, they say too many don't take action.
"People have been, in the past, very afraid to report for fear they might be wrong, and if they did, they didn't know how," said Karen Hudson of the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center.
She adds, sometimes the signs of child abuse are hard to spot.
They say look for:
-consistent brusing, marks or health issues that go unaddressed by the parent
-the child's being withdrawn or overly passive
-and wanting to stay at school or other activities longer than normal, to avoid going home.
In essence, trust your gut.
"If you feel, you don't have to know it, if you feel something is going on, in your stomach or you keep thinking about it, call the police. Call CPS," said Hudson.
You can reach the CPS Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-888-SOS-CHILD or 1-888-767-2445.
You can remain anonymous, and if you are wrong, you won't be held responsible.