On the Record With ... Britten Follett
Finding a way to end child abuse continues to be a passion for Britten Follett.
Follett is a former TV news reporter who co-wrote the book “Who Killed Kelsey?” about the murder of 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs. Follett looked into the negligence in Kelsey’s story and the corruption in the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
The Woodstock resident was named in December to the board of directors of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois.
In Illinois, there were 90 deaths related to child abuse or child neglect in 2011.
Follett recently spoke with reporter Joseph Bustos about her role on the Prevent Child Abuse Illinois board.
Bustos: Tell me a little bit about Prevent Child Abuse Illinois.
Follett: They do fundraising, outreach with different communities throughout the state to help the organizations that are in charge of preventing child abuse. Help educate them, help train them and help overall in getting the message out about child abuse prevention as a topic.
Bustos: You said training. Is it what to look for?
Follett: It’s what to look for in child abuse, who is responsible in reporting child abuse, and, in general, what are the triggers. What might make a parent snap? I think in so many cases, many people think child abuse is bad people who abuse their children. In reality, it could happen in anyone’s home. ... It’s not a premeditated thing. It’s a crime of passion where the parent becomes so frustrated with whatever circumstances are going on in their life and combine that with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and those difficult scenarios become much more difficult.
Bustos: What kind of organizations does Prevent Child Abuse train?
Follett: It’s anyone who would come in contact with a child, whether it be a parent, community member. I feel we’re all responsible for protecting our children, and you can’t just rely on an organization like DCFS to determine who’s at fault. So often moms or dads will lie to the DCFS person in the home. ... Maybe that school bus driver or that barista might see something on a regular basis, suspect it, and we have an obligation to report it. I think that’s the biggest part of my mission in joining the organization, is to get the word out about child abuse prevention and make it a dinner-table conversation.
Bustos: It seems like a difficult topic to bring up over the dinner table.
Follett: It is, but the reality is more children die in our homes than soldiers who have died in Iraq. You hear about that on the nightly news, but we don’t talk about the children who are dying due to child abuse. ... Being in television for 10 years, and covering these cases as a reporter, I was in a unique position where I could tell these stories to a broad audience, but year after year after year, I was telling the same story. It was new face, same story. The same failures of the system. For me, it’s been kind of liberating to get out of television and work directly with these organizations that have a closer impact on children’s lives.
Bustos: What is your role as a board member?
Follett: I’ve been asked to serve on a couple of committees, one is fundraising, and I’ve also been helping their communications director with their public relations and social media and marketing outreach. It’s a good fit for me to help them get that message out there.
Bustos: What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?
Follett: Raise the profile of the organization, and raise the profile of child abuse prevention in the state of Illinois. Certainly Illinois has a large number of child deaths on a yearly basis. ... A lot of those deaths involve prior DCFS involvement. If you have a case worker who comes in contact with the child, and the child still ends up dying, there’s a disconnect with that system.
Bustos: How do we stop child abuse?
Follett: To me, it’s making child abuse prevention a political issue. We talk about abortion, we talk about health care, we talk about war. We don’t talk about child abuse.
The Follett lowdown
Who is she? Britten Follett, member of the Prevent Child Abuse Illinois Board of Directors and co-author of “Who Killed Kelsey?”
Family: She is the daughter of Chuck and Dale Follett of Marengo, and has a sister, Asia Follett.
Favorite book: “Gone with the Wind”
Favorite type of food: Italian food