â€œA woman has been charged with shaking and killing her 19-day-old daughter.â€? [Utah]
â€œA two-year-old boy is in the hospital with severe burns over 40 percent of his body. Investigators say he was scalded in his familyâ€™s homeâ€¦and then never received medical attention for six full days.â€? [New York]
â€œPolice say a ten-year-old boy was tied up and kept in an animal crate for eight hoursâ€¦.The boyâ€™s mother and stepfather claim the boy stole a toy fan and would not admit what he did.â€? [Texas]
â€œA 63-year-old man was sentenced to four years and eight months in jail for sexually abusing children at the day care center where he worked.â€? [Virginia]
â€œA man pleaded guilty to abusing his then-girlfriendâ€™s child so severely in 2004 that the 4-year-old boy developed gangrene and lost a leg.â€? [North Carolina]
â€œA Lowell mother who accused her boyfriend of physically abusing her then 4-month-old babyâ€”fracturing the baby’s legs, arm and hipâ€”is now facing charges herself in connection with what police say was ongoing child abuse.â€? [Massachusetts]
While shockingly familiar, these recent news items highlight the horrors of child abuse and neglect in this country. It is a public health issue with devastating and widespread consequences, both to the children and families directly involved and to society at large. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which affords a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of this issue and note some disturbing trends. Consider the followingâ€¦
â€¢ According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, â€œeach week, child protective services (CPS) agencies throughout the United States receive more than 50,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. In Federal fiscal year 2003, an estimated 2.9 million reports concerning the welfare of approximately 5.5 million children were made. In approximately two-thirds (68 percent) of these cases, the information provided in the report was sufficient to prompt an assessment or investigation.â€?
â€¢ According to the most recent report on the State of Americaâ€™s Children, issued annually by the Childrenâ€™s Defense Fund, â€œmore than 900,000 children, one every 35 seconds, were abused or neglected in 2003. Four out of ten received no services whatsoever from Americaâ€™s child welfare system, despite the fact that problems left unaddressed often have long-term consequences for children. For example, it is not surprising to learn from a new study of foster care alumnae that one-third of those who had been in foster care were living below the poverty level, one-third had no health insurance, half had one or more mental health problems, and the rate of post traumatic stress disorder among a group of youth formerly in foster care was twice as high as that for war veterans.â€?
â€¢ In 2003, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, â€œan estimated 1,500 children were confirmed to have died from maltreatment; 36% of these deaths were from neglect, 28% from physical abuse, and 29% from multiple maltreatment typesâ€¦.Children younger than 4 years accounted for 79% of child maltreatment fatalities, with infants under 1 year accounting for 44% of deaths.â€?
â€¢ A 2001 report issued by Prevent Child Abuse America estimated that the direct costs of child abuse and neglect were some $24 billion per year and the indirect costs were an additional $69 billion per year.
â€¢ According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “children who have been abused may display: a poor self-image; sexual acting out; inability to trust or love others; aggressive, disruptive, and sometimes illegal behavior; anger and rage; self-destructive or self-abusive behavior, suicidal thoughts; passive, withdrawn, or clingy behavior; fear of entering into new relationships or activities; anxiety and fears; school problems or failures; feelings of sadness or other symptoms of depression; flashbacks, nightmares; drug and alcohol abuse; sleep problems.”
No matter the facts, statistics, or horror stories of child abuse, it is important to remember that none of us are helpless in the face of this public health crisis. Abuse and neglect are preventable. Resources and services to assist families at risk for such and treat those who have been victimized are available in a great many communities. And these organizations need your support. Please help out and get involved, however you can. After all, it takes a whole village to raise a child.