Child abuse is growing problem

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More often than not, the public sees only the end result of child abuse cases such as this week’s guilty pleas of Shain Widdersheim and her boyfriend Zaryl Bush.

Both were implicated in the death of Widdersheim’s son, Teddy Foltz, 14.

But many cases never make it into the public eye, and according Dr. Daryl Steiner, Director of Child Protection and Child Abuse Prevention with Akron Children’s Hospital, figures have been on the rise the past several months at the Boardman campus.

“We’ve gone from 26 in January to 58 in May,” said Steiner. “So, in that period of time, there’s been a steady increase.”

Steiner said his staff must try to distinguish accidental injuries from abuse. They try to determine if the history of the injury is plausible or believable, if the story of how the injury occurred is consistent and if the injury actually correlates to the story being told about it. Even then, Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said the cases are difficult to put together.

“Is there an explanation for any of the injuries? We have to check into all the different kinds of defenses before we even go for criminal charges,” said Cantalamessa.

Akron Children’s Hospital will soon be adding a child abuse pediatrician July 1 at the Beeghly location to help spot early signs of abuse, which experts refer to as “sentinel injuries.”

“Injuries that might go ignored unless somebody has the skill and expertise to recognize them as obviously injuries,” said Steiner.

Prosecutors say that while abuse cases are very emotionally charged for everyone, they hope the recent, high-profile cases serve as a strong reminder for everyone to report suspected abuse to authorities immediately.

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