HARRISBURG, Pa.,, April 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Not having my granddaughter is the hardest part," Margarita Torres Leon said in a halting, emotion-laden voice during a mid-morning ceremony in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month in the Capitol Rotunda.
Today was the third anniversary of the death of her granddaughter, Darisabel Baez of York, who died in 2008 from a beating inflicted by the mother's boyfriend.
"We need to be aware about child abuse," Torres Leon said. "I was not aware about my granddaughter being abused. If I would have known, she would not be dead."
When Torres Leon finished, Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA), said to her, "There is a strong group of committed professionals here today. They will remember your words."
Child abuse prevention advocates, children and youth services workers, state officials, legislators, and others gathered in the Rotunda for the hour-long ceremony organized by PFSA.
Forty-three children died from abuse in Pennsylvania in 2009, among more than 25,300 cases of suspected abuse reported. Child abuse occurred in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania -- urban, suburban, and rural.
Cathy Utz, acting deputy secretary of the Office of Children, Youth and Families in the state Department of Public Welfare (DPW), presented Gov. Tom Corbett's proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Pennsylvania.
Angela Logan, policy director for DPW, said deaths from child abuse in Pennsylvania had declined for the third year in a row. "Your efforts really make a difference," she told the audience.
Chuck Songer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators Association, said, "I have seen my share of both fear and heartache, [but] we have come a long way in the effectiveness of our work."
State legislators expressed support for the fight against child abuse. Sen. Kim Ward of Westmoreland County acknowledged that those who "work in the trenches" have had experiences "beyond what most of us can really imagine," and Rep. Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County said, "We all want to stand for the most vulnerable."
PFSA announced the creation of a media award to be given annually to honor news reporting that expands public understanding and awareness of child abuse and neglect and helps improve community involvement in dealing with the problem.
Liddle said the award has been named the Michael A. O'Pake Memorial Award for Media Public Service for the late state senator from Berks County. She said O'Pake helped spearhead passage of Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law in 1974 and championed the cause of protecting children from abuse.
Liddle presented the first O'Pake award to the York Daily Record for coverage of the death of Darisabel Baez and the aftermath of the incident.
Liddle said, "The Daily Record covered the horrific details of little Darisabel's beating at the hands of her mother's boyfriend in 2008 and stayed with the story -- examining the circumstances of how it happened, looking at the effect it had on various members of the community, following the trials that resulted in a death verdict for the perpetrator and a prison sentence for the mother, and, perhaps most important, helping the community look for answers to help prevent other such tragedies in the future."
Attending to accept the award for the York Daily Record were Sunday editor Scott Blanchard and photographer Jason Plotkin.
PFSA provides training on recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect through schools, early childhood education centers, religious institutions, and social service agencies.
Last year it trained nearly 8,000 individuals who work with or around children in how to recognize and report suspected child abuse.
PFSA is the Pennsylvania sponsor of The Front Porch Project®, a community-based training initiative that educates the general public about how to protect children from abuse, and also works with more than 50 affiliate agencies across Pennsylvania to provide information, educational materials, and programs that teach and support good parenting practices.
Visit the PFSA website at www.pa-fsa.org.
SOURCE PA Family Support Alliance