Paterno Family Joins PFSA to Prevent Child Abuse

April 10, 2013

By Angela Liddle


This morning Sue and Jay Paterno joined with the PA Family Support Alliance, Pennsylvania’s top legislative leadership, advocates, and child welfare professionals to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month. They called for all citizens to join them in learning about child abuse – how to recognize the many, sometimes confusing, signs and symptoms. They called for everyone to join with them in tackling the tough issues, having the hard conversations and learning how to play a role in watching out for all of our children so their safety and well-being is a priority.

Blue ribbons, the national symbol for child abuse prevention were found everywhere, but nowhere more striking than on a large map of Pennsylvania displaying one blue ribbon for each child fatality as a result of child abuse in the past five years – 206 ribbons crowded the map. Most of us spoke or thought about the tragic loss of opportunity those blue ribbons represent – the loss to a family, a community and our society. As I listened to the speakers this morning my mind kept returning to one blue ribbon located in York County. That one ribbon belongs to a little girl named Darisabel Baez who was two years old in 2008 when her mother’s boyfriend beat her to death. Coincidentally, just two days ago Harve Johnson was sentenced to death for the fatal April 6 abuse. At his sentencing hearing Johnson’s mother tearfully admitted, “I beat the hell out of him – with anything I could get my hands on.” So many lessons to be learned for so many of us.

Darisabel sticks out in my mind in part because I’ve met and talked with her grandmother–have seen tears roll down her cheeks, heard her voice crack at the mention of her granddaughter. I’ve heard the outrage from the first responders who found Darisabel’s lifeless body. Mostly, what enters my mind when I think of Darisabel’s death is the great impact it has had on our state. The York community was outraged and they took action – citizens participated in a community forum and with raised voices pleaded for someone to explain how members of a neighborhood can prevent such tragedy. 

Darisabel’s death lead the PA Family Support Alliance to introduce The Front Porch Project®a training initiative designed to help community members learn how to intervene when they see child maltreatment in public – or in their community – so no child experiences the horrors seen and felt by Darisabel. I think Jay Paterno said it best this morning when he shared, “A friend of my father once said, ‘I don’t care about the back patio. I sit on the front porch; there aint nothing going on out back. I wanna see all the neighborhood kids walking by.’” A quick glance at 206 blue ribbons should tell us loud and clear that it’s time for us to get “back on the front porch” and keep an eye on Pennsylvania’s kids. To learn how you can best educate yourself on child abuse and its prevention visit