Chief Williams & Department Recognized for Support of Children’s Wall of Tears
By Tim Pompey
Every day, according to Jane LeMond-Alvarez, cofounder and president of the National Association Against Child Cruelty (NAACC), ten children in the United States die of child abuse, about 2,500 annually. In Ventura County alone, approximately 10,000-13,000 cases of abuse and neglect and 300 cases of sexual molestation are annually reported.
Several years ago, in order to bring attention to this crisis and to help build public support to revamp state laws and improve California’s Child Protective Services, LeMond-Alvarez and her husband Leo founded NAACC and The Children’s Wall of Tears.
The Children’s Wall of Tears is the educational arm of NAACC. It uses names and pictures to memorialize children around the world who are killed as a result of child abuse and neglect. LeMond-Alvarez travels with this exhibition state of state to draw attention to the dire needs of these children and to inform the public about the reality of child abuse. “We want to inspire people to step out of their comfort zones and do something about it,” she said. “We want to hold social workers and judges accountable when they continually reunify abused children with their abusers.”
The Children’s Wall of Tears was recently featured on Saturday, March 29 as part of the first annual Celebrating Children’s Day at Plaza Park in Oxnard. “Because we focus on the effects of child cruelty and child death,” said LeMond-Alvarez, “we decided to have a very positive event to kick off child abuse month.”
The gathering drew five-hundred people and was supported by Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams, one of the keynote speakers, and Commander Eric Sonstegard, who helped provide patrol support and pointed them toward the K9 unit and the DRAGGS (Drag Racers Against Gangs and Graffiti).
The support from Williams, Sonstegard, and their fellow police greatly impressed NAACC board member Pauline Daerr. “I called him and he suggested the K9 unit and also the DRAGGS,” she said. “So he gave me the contact numbers for them and they were there the whole four hours. It was amazing.”
LeMond-Alvarez, a retired officer with the Oxnard Police Department, thinks it’s important to recognize the role of the police in the fight against child abuse. “Police officers see child cruelty every day and it takes a toll on them,” she noted. “It was wonderful seeing the officers mingling with the children at our event.”
To show their appreciation, LeMond-Alvarez and Daerr met Williams on Wednesday, April 16 at the Oxnard Police Department and presented both her and the K9 unit with separate certificates of appreciation. “We do appreciate the time the Oxnard police department spent there,” said Daerr. “It was a four-hour event and we had police protection the whole time.”
“We’re just very thankful for the generous participation of the department,” said LeMond-Alvarez. “There were no questions. They were right on it. They wanted to be part of our event.”
Chief Williams thanked LeMond-Alvarez and Daerr and was quick to give credit to members of her department, particularly the family protection unit, for their participation and service. “I accept this on behalf of my agency,” said Williams. “I can’t do my job without all their great help, especially the work of the family protection unit. They are some of the most committed, amazing, professional, conscientious human beings I have ever met.”
LeMond-Alvarez hopes that the wall of tears and the interest it generates will raise the community’s awareness about the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. “It was a resource event for the community,” she said, “to let them know where they could go if they had problems, and it was also to celebrate the first annual Children’s Day in Oxnard.”
More information about NAACC and the Children’s Wall of Tears can be found atwww.thechildrenswalloftears.