Officials see terrible trend of child abuse cases in Tampa Bay area

There are resources to help curb this threat

Chance Walsh, Sarasota Co. Sheriff's Office photo

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – In the past few months, the Tampa Bay area has seen a terrifying spike in child abuse cases. In many of these awful stories, it’s the parents who are charged with hurting or killing their own children.

Janiya Thomas (Bradenton Police Department)
Janiya Thomas (Bradenton Police Department)

Back in October, Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury were accused of killing their baby and burying him in a field. In December, Keishanna Thomas was charged with stuffing her dead daughter in a freezer. And officials said James Dearman smothered and killed his son on Christmas Eve.

“In all the years that I’ve been prosecuting, which is over 20 years now, the trend that we’re seeing right now is alarming,” State Attorney Ed Brodsky said.

Chance Walsh and his parents, Kristen Bury and Joseph Walsh. Sarasota Co. Sheriff's Office photos
Chance Walsh and his parents, Kristen Bury and Joseph Walsh. Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s Office photos

Brodsky said some of these crimes are preventable. “Parents need to understand, when you’re angry, when you’re frustrated, when you’re upset with your children, the most important thing you need to do is not take out your anger on your children,” he said.

If parents are overwhelmed, or if a child is removed from a home, there are resources available at places like Manatee Children’s Services. Employees can provide help for distressed parents and treatment for abused children.

“If they get the clinical services, the treatment that they need, they do heal. They get better, and they turn into functioning adults,” social worker Cheryl Andrews said.

The community can also play a strong role in stopping this threat. We are all required by law to notify officials if we spot possible child abuse. “We need to motivate and become a movement of child abuse prevention,” Gigi Kelly with Manatee Children’s Services said. “What we need to do is recognize that these parents are grown up child victims, and until we can really get in and break that cycle, this will continue to perpetuate.”

Officials said there are a lot of reasons why this trend could be happening. Child abuse prevention programs have been cut. Parents are still struggling in this economy. Some adults were just never taught good parenting techniques.

If you spot a possible child abuse victim, you can call local law enforcement or the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1800-96-ABUSE.

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