Since this is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, you’re likely to see many editorials and op-eds on the subject. Here’s one from today’s Statesmanjournal.com. Bill Day’s illustration about verbal abuse (above) for this editorial is, in some ways, more on-target than the editorial. It’s a well-done editorial in the sense that it advocates not leaving child abuse prevention to police. And it also helps bust the myth that we cling to in our society: that strangers are what parents have to worry about most.
Rather, most people who commit child abuse are people we know well. They are parents strung out on drugs, dependent on alcohol or overwhelmed by mental illness to the point that they neglect their children. In fact, the majority of abuse cases involve child neglect, according to Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau.
Although the cartoon focuses on verbal abuse, the op-ed doesn’t. And verbal abuse, though research shows it harms a child as much as sexual abuse, doesn’t seem to be emphasized in the recent spate of legislation that focuses on beefing up child sex-abuse reporting laws. As the CDC’s ACE Study shows, it’s in the family next door — not just “bad” parents across town in the “poor” neighborhood, where people generally deal with many more economic and personal stresses — where all type of adverse childhood experiences occur.
The editorial advocates reporting child abuse to authorities, and to step in and help a needy family with child care or donations to a food bank. All good. But wouldn’t a more effective approach be to fund tested programs that actually work to prevent all forms of child trauma? Here are three from a four-year CDC study on the long-term cost of child abuse that was published in February:
- Nurse–Family Partnership, an evidence–based community health program. Partners a registered nurse with a first–time mother during pregnancy and continues through the child′s second birthday
- Early Start, provides coordinated, family–centered system of services. California′s response to federal legislation providing early intervention services to infant and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
- Triple P, a multilevel parenting and family support system, aims to prevent severe emotional and behavioral disturbances in children by promoting positive and nurturing relationships between parent and child.
A STORY BY Nikie Mayo on Independentmail.com in Anderson, SC, localizes the aforementioned CDC study that shows “the cost of health care, special education, criminal justice and other services for each child who survives abuse is $210,012 during the average victim’s lifetime.”
The story focuses on Sam (not his real name), a 13-year-old boy who was “removed from a home with no running water, no electricity and mold growing in the refrigerator. He arrived at Calvary Home for Children in Anderson just days before Thanksgiving.”
Mayo interviewed Curtis Florence, one of the study’s researchers who found that “the child abuse and neglect that takes place in just one year will cost the U.S. $124 billion over the course of the victims’ lifetimes”, according to the story. Florence said:
“On an emotional level, you don’t get any argument from anyone when you talk about the importance of preventing child maltreatment,” Florence said. “But when it comes to determining how many resources to put toward that effort, it is a harder question to answer, because you have lots of worthy things competing for limited resources. This study demonstrates the substantial benefits of preventing child maltreatment … because it enables us to say more concretely what the costs of child maltreatment really are.”
IN AN OP-ED ON NEWSOK.COM, Kristin Davis says that a bill to extend protective orders for more than a year — for a lifetime, in fact — is a good idea. The executive director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition — Ivy-league educated, successful, well-traveled, and a women’s advocate — felt so threatened by her ex-husband’s abuse of her and her children that she had written into her divorce decree that he would have no contact with her or their kids for their entire lives. However, that doesn’t really help most women.
State Rep. Wade Rousselot wants to change that. After hearing a devastating domestic violence story from one of his constituents, he proposed House Bill 2396. If passed, this bill would extend the validity of orders of protection and would authorize a continuous order of protection in certain cases. The bill has passed the House and should be heard in a Senate committee next week.