New numbers help report child abuse

A statewide phone number is now available for anybody who suspects child abuse or neglect in Ohio.

It’s too late for Theodore Anthony Foltz-Tedesco of Struthers, but it’s not too late to rescue other victims.

Affectionately known as Teddy, the 14-year-old boy died in St. Elizabeth Health Center where he was taken with a severe head injury. Police charged Teddy’s mother’s boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, with murder, saying the 43-year-old man abused the boy for three years.

Teddy’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, has been charged with complicity to murder, complicity to rape, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice.

Family members tipped off detectives that Foltz’s injuries were suspicious. By then it was too late to save Teddy, but not too late to serve justice.

The statewide phone may not have made a difference since the suspected abuse was apparently well concealed from relatives. But between neighbors, friends, classmates, teachers and co-workers of Teddy, his mother and her boyfriend, it’s realistic to assume that somebody had cause to suspect child abuse long before the teen found himself in a deadly situation.

So while 855-O-H-CHILD (855-642-4453) is just a number, and other numbers already exist to report abuse in Mahoning, Trumbull and Ohio’s 86 other counties, the real motivation to more proactively report suspected child abuse should be Teddy’s tragic story.

”It is important that Ohioans be able to report suspected child abuse quickly, easily and anonymously. This one, easy-to-remember number makes that possible,” Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Michael Colbert said. ”We never want a child to be at risk because an adult did not know where to turn for help.”

After successfully introducing the telephone directory in Northwest Ohio in September, ODJFS has now unveiled the telephone number in all 88 counties. Calls to the number are redirected to the appropriate county agency.

Let’s remember Teddy. Let’s report suspected child abuse quickly.