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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Efforts are needed to stop child abuse

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On a hot summer day in 2005, Shawn Michael Mohan - then an 18 year-old father - was babysitting his 3 month-old son. What happened next defies the imagination. Regardless of the details, the infant son ended up in the hospital with serious head injuries and Mohan pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges and received a five-year suspended sentence.

In so many ways, the judicial system doesn't adequately address the issue of child abuse. I don't fault the courts because, to be real honest, they are simply overwhelmed. The jails are full of violent offenders and drug users. A simple case of child abuse sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

But someone should have read between the lines. Someone should have recognized that Shawn Michael Mohan was an unfit father who would harm his 3-month-old son. Instead, Mohan began serving his suspended sentence, the boy recovered in the hospital and life returned to normal.

Mohan's back in the news this week. Two weeks before Christmas, Mohan became a father once again. Another son. And another tragedy.

Four days before Christmas, the 12-day-old boy was taken for a routine medical exam. Doctors discovered a series of circular-shaped bruises on his face, arm, hand, foot, hip and buttocks. Though the injuries were not life threatening, the Missouri Division of Family Services was contacted.

Mohan told police that he "accidentally" shot the 12 day-old boy with a BB gun. Police obviously weren't buying his story. A half-dozen injuries are not an accident. So now Mohan sits in a jail cell under a $100,000 bond. He's sure to serve his original five-year sentence if not more.

There is no way to know if a parent is prone to violence or is a loving, caring person. But in this case, the first clue should have surface in 2005 with the first injury to the first son. The system didn't fail these children because there are thousands of daily examples almost as bad as this case. Yet the chilling realization is that some young people are simply not prepared for parenthood. And the suffering they cause is beyond most of our imaginations.

It's impossible for society to dictate who can and who cannot have children. All we can do is hope and pray that workers in the Division of Family Services do their job. Surely professionals within the child care community can recognize signs of concern. If they need more money to more closely monitor on behalf of the children of Missouri, then by all means give them the resources they require. Otherwise, we'll see more headlines and we'll pay for more tragedies.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen