COLUMBUS, Ohio - It takes a strong man to be a gentle man - that's the message an Ohio community is spreading in hopes of protecting little ones from harm.
After three local children died in separate incidents of abuse at the hands of a mother's boyfriend, Lucas County Children Services took action to confront the problem head-on.
The agency launched a campaign to educate men who live with a girlfriend and her children about proper parenting.
Director of Social Services Donna Seed says Children Services passed around literature that feature key facts about the safe care of a child.
"Kids cry for no reason," she points out. "Kids are messy. They have accidents. They do things they shouldn't do.
"So take a deep breath before you react. Young lives depend on you. You are the caregiver, and a split second is all it takes to cause a tragedy."
It also includes information on area fatherhood initiatives, parent and child home interactive therapies, and home visitation programs.
According to federal research, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are 11 times more likely to experience abuse than children living with their married biological parents.
These children also are more likely to face physical, emotional or educational neglect.
Mercy Health, local police departments and other community partners are passing out informational pamphlets to families.
Seed maintains their efforts contributed to a drop in abuse cases.
"We also did a lot of work as well when we were intervening in families with mothers to say, 'Be cautious who you are bringing into your home because you're putting everyone at risk, possibly, in that situation,'" she states.
Seed says men should know that when they enter a relationship with a woman who already has children, it's a package deal. She says a gentle response in frustrating situations teaches a child that violence is not the answer.
"When you are tough and big, a backhand or shaking a child to say, 'Stop crying!' can actually provide a lethal injury," she points out. "The strength that you have can be shown in your character and in your response that you have to a child."