Just one year of child abuse costs San Francisco, CA, $300 million….but it doesn’t have to

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In 2015, 5,545 children in San Francisco, CA, were reported to have experienced abuse. Of those, the reports of 753 children were substantiated. The expense to San Francisco for not preventing that abuse will cost $400,533 per child over his or her lifetime. That adds up to $301.6 million for just that one year, according to “The Economics of Child Abuse: A Study of San Francisco.”

And, because child abuse is profoundly underreported, the costs are likely to be as much as $5.6 billion for one year of children experiencing trauma, the report found.

The report, released today, provides the first calculation of the economic burden of child abuse in San Francisco. It was put together by the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center and the Social Sector Solutions program at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The HAND Foundation contributed to the effort.

“Although we have quantified the cost of a child abuse victim, it’s impossible to quantify the impact of abuse to a child, their family and our community — with one single case our society has been degraded,” said Katie Albright, executive director of the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. “This report proves that not only morally, but fiscally, it is our mandate as a community to end child abuse once and for all.”

The report echoes other economic analyses. Let’s look at only the children who were abused in the U.S. in 2008. Add up the total lifetime economic burden resulting from their maltreatment. It’s a whopping $124 billion. Include all the people who were abused each year even for just 10 years, and the number begins rolling into the trillions.

The CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which did those calculations, broke down that unfathomably large number into this:

The lifetime cost for one child who was a victim of maltreatment is $210,012 in 2010 dollars. This includes:

  • $32,648 in childhood health care costs;
  • $10,530 in adult medical costs;
  • $144,360 in productivity losses;
  • $7,728 in child welfare costs;
  • $6,747 in criminal justice costs;
  • $7,999 in special education costs.

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In San Francisco, the costs (in current dollars) are:

  • $54,553 in health care costs (child and adult);
  • $314,417 in lifetime productivity losses;
  • $11,035 in child welfare costs;
  • $7,637 in criminal justice costs;
  • $12,891 in education costs

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Pueblo, CO, clinic rewrites the book on primary medical care by asking patients about their childhood adversity

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In October 2015 in Pueblo, CO, the staff members of a primary care medical clinic – Southern Colorado Family Medicine at the St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center – start asking parents of newborn babies to kids five years old about the parents’ adverse childhood experiences and the resilience factors in their lives. They ask the same questions of pregnant women and their partners in the hospital’s high-risk obstetrics clinic.

The results are so positive after the first year that the clinic starts asking parents of kids up to 18 years old. The plans are to do the same in the hospital’s emergency room.

Why? They think it gives kids a leg up on a healthier start in life. They think it helps adults understand and manage their own health better. They think it helps physicians better understand and help their patients. Oh yeah – and it looks like it’s going to save money. Probably a lot of money.

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This EMT integrates ACEs, offers emotional first aid

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Peter Chiavetta and the handouts he gives patients

One day, when Peter Chiavetta was just out of college, he was driving down a road in Eden, NY. Before he could even give the slightest conscious thought to his actions, he swerved off the road onto the shoulder. The car that was heading straight at Chiavetta slammed into the vehicle behind him.

“I thought I was a good prepared citizen,” recalls Chiavetta. “I had road flares and a two-pound fire extinguisher in the trunk of my car. I’m standing in the middle of the road with my little fire extinguisher, while on the ground the two passengers in the car behind me had been ejected and were lying motionless. Out of nowhere a man appeared with a first-aid kit and tried to help one of the victims. The driver — covered with blood and his knees are chopped down to bone — was calling out to me for help. I had no idea how to help him.”

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Which version is your kid’s school?

This fabulous video from Atlanta Speech School shows what a trauma-informed/resilience building school looks like — and what a school looks like that hasn’t incorporated these practices.

We’ve done stories about schools that have incorporated practices based on the science of adverse childhood experiences. This science includes who suffers and the consequences (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and other epidemiological studies), the effects of toxic stress that these experiences have on a child’s brain and body, how the consequences of these experiences can be passed from generation to generation, and the resilience research that shows our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal.

Here’s a list:

Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries a new approach to school discipline; suspensions drop 85% — This led to the making of the amazing documentary Paper Tigers, which followed six Lincoln High School students for a year.

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Violence is just one part of childhood trauma. So why are we focusing so much on childhood violence?

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Whac-A-Mole players (photo by Laura)

Many people and organizations focus on preventing violence with the belief that if our society can stop violence against children, then most childhood trauma will be eradicated.

However, research that has emerged over the last 20 years clearly shows that focusing primarily on violence prevention – physical and sexual abuse, in particular – doesn’t eliminate the trauma that children experience, and won’t even prevent further violence.

“Although violence can beget violence, it’s hardly the only cause of violence,” says Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-principal investigator of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), groundbreaking epidemiological research that showed a direct link between 10 types of childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, among many other consequences.

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Time and again: This time, Orlando, and again more pertinent questions must be asked

Mourners in Orlando. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Mourners in Orlando. Photo: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

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For those of us who know that childhood adversity can lead to chronic disease, mental illness, and violence, among other consequences, the questions about Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in an Orlando night club early Sunday morning, aren’t answered yet. In fact, most of the questions that would address the roots of his violent actions — and our successful efforts to prevent other mass shootings — haven’t even been asked.

There are a couple of hints. According to this New York Times article, “Mr. Mateen had a chilling history that included talking about killing people, beating his former wife and voicing hatred of minorities, gays and Jews…”

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