News and Press Releases

Attorney General Eric Holder joins in announcement of new defending childhood Component in cuyahoga county

Sept. 28, 2012

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, United States Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, and United Way of Greater Cleveland president and CEO Bill Kitson, were joined today by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to announce that a 2-1-1 community access line will now provide services to children exposed to violence part of the Defending Childhood Initiative.

Attorney General Eric Holder launched the Defending Childhood Initiative in 2010 to take an in-depth look at the problem of children exposed to violence. Research shows that more than 60 percent of kids have been exposed to crime, abuse and violence. Both direct and indirect exposure to violence has a profound negative impact on the mental and emotional development of young people across the country.

“We know that children who are exposed to violence are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to commit acts of violence themselves,” said Attorney General Holder. “By working together to identify the children who need our help, we can intervene more quickly, break cycles of violence more effectively, and help these children heal, grow and thrive.”

FitzGerald said:  “Time and again, studies and statistics have proven that when we intervene early, we change the lives of children, and give them a chance to break the cycle of violence.  Defending Childhood provides the tools and the treatment to change, and a future of opportunity that many caught in violent cycles have never known.”

United Way’s 2-1-1 line is available to nearly 1.9 million people in Cuyahoga, Medina, Geauga and four other counties. The community can now call the line to receive information and access screening, assessment and treatment services. All 2-1-1 staff has been trained to ask questions in selected situations to determine whether Defending Childhood services can help a child who has been exposed to violence and experienced resulting trauma.

“United Way 2-1-1 is proud to be a partner in the Defending Childhood initiative,” Kitson said. “Together we can help children who are exposed to violence. And the first step is to tell someone. By dialing United Way 2-1-1, kids and their families have a community access line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

With this in mind, Cuyahoga County was one of four sites across the country selected for a full grant award of $2 million from the Justice Department. The money is being used over two years to develop a full complement of services to identify and treat children who are exposed to violence.

Cuyahoga County is committed to sustaining these efforts to prevent and address childhood exposure to violence working closely with Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, The Cleveland Foundation, Third Federal Foundation and others to raise an additional $2 million from other public and private sources.

It will be spent on evidence-based practices that prevent or break the cycle of violence; training; policy and procedure development; community engagement and awareness; and data collection and evaluation.

More than 60 percent of middle school students and nearly half of high school students reported having been in a physical fight over the past year, according to a survey administered by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Nearly 16 percent of students in the same survey reported carrying a weapon such as a knife or gun in the past 30 days.

As part of the Defending Childhood application process, Cuyahoga County convened more than 150 stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan to transform our community into a safe haven for children and one that rejects the inevitability of violence.

Dettelbach chairs a 75-person governing board that guides the collaborative effort.


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