Advocates #stress #proactive approach to #prevent #child #deaths

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — They are supposed to be the ones protecting their children, but in the past three months the parents of three children in Hampton Roads have been accused of killing them.

Miranda Gilbert’s 1-year-old son died in February. The Mathews County sheriff says he was left alone in a bathtub.

Shelby Love and her boyfriend, John Hardee, are charged in connection with the death of her 2-year old-daughter last month in Norfolk.

And Latoya Smith and her boyfriend, Demont Harris, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 11-year-old daughter on Friday.

“It’s like, oh no, not again,” said Melynda Ciccotti, executive director of Champions for Children Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads.

“If we’re serious about preventing abuse from happening we’re going to have to step out in front of it,” she told

Instead of reacting to child abuse and deaths, Ciccotti contends we must be proactive.

“Better laws, better parent training … positive parenting is a very effective strategy, but it’s got to be done correctly and effectively and systematically within the region.”

One idea she has is for stronger penalties for first time offenders charged with any kind of abuse.

The Eastern Region Child Fatality Review Team’s 2016 report showed that four of the 12 children killed that year had past contact with social services, as did the latest victim from Norfolk.

Another idea her organization is working now is the “No Hit Zone” project.

“It is about non-violent, positive interaction with children,” she explained.

Local agencies and organizations can sign up for training and agree to enforce a no spanking policy.

The training shows how to give support and intervene in stressful situations to reduce physical punishment.

The other things Ciccotti says everyone can do is to look for signs of abuse like unexplained injuries, social withdrawal and depression.

When you see this step in and talk with the child and offer support. Then if you suspected abuse report it to local authorities.