By Mary Mattison
“Children sleeping in Mulberry Street” by 19th Century reformer Jacob Reis (1890) (PD)
The history of child abuse in all its forms would astonish many. It leaves little hope to be vanquished, considering in many countries it is deemed “culture”. Although we can not stop child abuse in its entirety, we do have the power to help save one child at a time in America, and hope for humanitarian efforts to continue their fight for children around the world.
The life of Mary Ellen Wilson started an increased awareness for the need to protect children. She was born in 1864. When her Mother became widowed, she sent Mary to boarding school, but could not continue the payments. By the age of two Mary Ellen was placed in foster care, suffering the abuse for eight years. Although neighbors heard the cries, and saw the condition she lived in, they did not come to her aid, but thankfully one concerned woman could not forget her.
In 1874 a Methodist missionary, Etta Angell Wheeler, was asked to check on Mary Ellen, since she made frequent visits to the poor tenements. After seeing the badly bruised and neglected child, she set out to take legal recourse and remove her from the home.
A court case ensued, and the judge placed Mary Ellen with a loving family. She went on to lead a productive life, and some have deemed her a “dandelion” child, which are children who seem to thrive and do rather well, despite living through horrific experiences. Sadly not all cases have such a happy ending.
There have been many changes in child welfare since 1874, yet the circumstances that left Mary Ellen in an abusive home for years are still much the same.
With all the recent effort to decide who will fund woman’s reproductive health, four children die every day from abuse. This is only an estimation, and fatalities are rising. Each state has a data base, and the numbers are heart wrenching. See, for example, https://dcs.az.gov/news/child-fatalities-near-fatalities-information-releases .
Child Protective Services stood to receive 3.3 Billion dollars in 2016 to fund their programs. The bleak reality is, there is not enough money, or man power to stop the abuse and neglect of children. Valuable time is wasted investigating false claims, while serious cases of abuse and neglect go unreported. In some cases children are placed in poorly screened foster homes where the abuse continues.
Would it not be more economical to address the social issues? The lack of moral values, compassion for human life, and self-seeking behaviors that are behind the suffering of innocent children?
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3: 14).
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