COLORADO — About 35 years after an abductor left her for dead in an outhouse in the Colorado mountains, Lori Poland is leading the charge for a new national foundation focused on ending child abuse and neglect.
Executive Director Poland and Board Chair Dr. Dick Krugman launched the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect on June 18.
The foundation’s vision is to change perception of child abuse and neglect in the country as not just a social and legal problem, but also a health, mental health and public health problem that can be treated, according to a press release. It will work with other groups and individuals to expand funding for research, training and prevention, and will create a public awareness campaign to help parents, professionals and communities end child abuse.
Both Poland and Krugman have personal, and intertwined, experience with child abuse.
On Aug. 22, 1983, 3-year-old Poland was playing in the front yard of her home with her brother while their father painted their house. When the father went inside to grab popsicles for the children, a car pulled up with the passenger door open. The driver asked Poland if she liked candy.
Poland excitedly said yes and got in the car. The man drove to the mountains outside the city, sexually abused the child and put her 15 feet below the ground in an outhouse pit.
She stayed there for three and a half days until bird watchers heard her crying and located her in the outhouse.
In the weeks afterward, Poland was taken to the Kempe Center, where Krugman was the director. She had already identified her abductor — Robert Paul Thiret, who ended up spending six years in prison and had been abused when he was 3 years old — and was working on healing. Krugman was one of her pediatricians during this time.
Skip ahead a few years, and Krugman and Poland reconnected when she was working on a paper for a high school class. Poland went on to complete three internships and post graduate certificate clinical work at the Kempe Center, where Krugman had worked before taking a job as the dean of the medical school at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. The two became close and decide to launch a national effort to address child abuse and neglect.
The result of that — the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN) — officially launched on June 18, with Gov. John Hickenlooper as a speaker.
“Colorado is proud to introduce EndCAN as it takes a fresh approach to addressing one of society’s toughest challenges,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s clear the impact of child abuse and neglect goes far beyond one individual or family but to an entire community. It is not just a social and legal issue, but a major health, mental health and public health problem. The approach that EndCAN will bring to this issue is sure to make a difference.”