Child advocate says child abuse prevention starts with education

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- In recent weeks, there has been a number of sad stories of babies and young children dying from co-sleeping, child abuse and neglect.  It's a problem we're seeing across our area.

One child advocate says prevention starts with educating the youth.

Rene Howitt started an organization in Missouri called Cope24, that strives to reduce child abuse and neglect by reaching out to young adults before they become parents.

“Why aren't we giving our kids all of the knowledge about parenting?  We know most of them are going to be parents,” she said.

Howitt was in Milwaukee Friday promoting her new documentary on families with children suffering from shaken baby syndrome.  One of the families featured is from Milwaukee.

“They're never going to be like you and I.  The damage is just devastating,” said Howitt.

Aside from the documentary, Howitt has also spoken to more than 18,000 students in 200 high schools nationwide, using her class curriculum and videos to teach teens about difficult parenting situations and how to deal with them.

“The mentality has to be different and it's not,” she said.

In Milwaukee county, the problem is severe.  In the last month, three children died in a West Allis house fire after their mother locked them inside a bedroom, a Milwaukee infant died from co-sleeping, and another baby, shaken and dropped on his head, later died from injuries.  In all cases, the parents were charged in their deaths.

Howitt says all of it is preventable.

“These parents want their children.  They just don't want to take care of them the way they should be taken care of,” she said.

Howitt hopes to reach out to students here in Milwaukee to try and break the cycle.  While she hasn’t visited any schools in Wisconsin, she says has been communicating with a few and hopes to bring her program to the Milwaukee area.

If you would like to learn more about Cope24 and her documentary, click here.