In Case You Missed It: “Our Opinion: Save the Children”

For Immediate Release:
February 1, 2013

Erin Gillespie
Department of Children and Families
(850) 717-4450

In Case You Missed It: “Our Opinion: Save the Children”

Tallahassee Democrat: Our Opinion: Save the children

Child abuse is a heart-wrenching and appalling crime that most of us hope we never have to witness.

But put yourself in the shoes of those who work closely with children on a regular basis. It could be a teacher, community center director, bus driver or even a church program associate.

In a sense, child abuse could occur in any environment, and in Florida, it’s occurs far too often.

The Department of Children and Families reports receiving about 300,000 calls each year, with the number of hotline referrals to law enforcement for non-caregiver abuse allegations averaging about 500 each month since last October. (Caregiver cases are sent to DCF investigators). And, while that number is hard to fathom, the agency believes there are far more instances that aren’t being reported.

But DCF, under the direction of Secretary David Wilkins, has made it a priority to protect Florida’s children, by removing them from abusive environments, by finding responsible adults to serve as foster parents and by making the process simpler to report abuse situations in the first place.

The agency recently teamed up with child-safety advocate Lauren Book, of Lauren’s Kids, to promote a new effort called “Don’t Miss the Signs.” It involves a major campaign designed to increase our awareness of child abuse and, more important, to help provide us with resources to report it.

This is not just another government-sponsored public event. Rather, it’s a plea from a government agency that is reaching out to the public to help address a critical issue in our state. In fact, Florida legislators passed a law last year saying that reporting child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. Failing to report obvious signs of child abuse is now a third-degree felony.

Signs of possible child abuse include:

  • Frequent bruises or broken bones.
  • Frequent absences from school.
  • Acting out in school.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Unexplained changes in behavior.
  • Irrational fear of certain places or people

The quickest way to report suspected abuse is by calling the hotline at 800-962-2873, or by visiting Additional information can be found at

What this says is that addressing child abuse is no longer an issue relegated to teachers, counselors, child-care providers and others. It’s a responsibility that each of us must share.