Welcome to Barriere Bits, the child abuse information e-zine that will provide you with international child abuse information.
In this issue, you'll find child abuse news from:
Boston, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico:
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have found what could be a link between asthma and child abuse. The Brigham doctors questioned 1200 children and their parents in Puerto Rico. The parents were told upfront that the life-and-history questionnaire for the children included questions about whether or not the children endured physical or sexual abuse. The results identified that 20% of children who endured physical or sexual abuse were dealing with the chronic asthmatic condition, as compared to only 11% of those children who did not suffer maltreatment. The study also showed that abuse was a more significant predictor of developing asthma than the economic status of the family. Researchers were not surprised by their findings, since stress has recently been implicated as a trigger for asthma; they believe that the extreme strain that child abuse causes, along with hormonal changes, may predispose children to particularly difficult bouts of the condition. Children from Puerto Rico were the subjects of this study because statistics reveal that they are more likely to have asthma and to die from the disease than any other U.S. children, whether they live on the island or the mainland.
State of California:
A joint study between UCLA and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation has determined a link between the number of alcohol outlets in a neighbourhood and risk of injury to children. Data was retrieved from more than 1,600 California zip codes and corresponding hospital discharges for childhood injuries, assaults and injuries that were child abuse related; all from the year 2000. With regard to child abuse (and child neglect), researchers surmise that the high number of alcohol outlets in any given neighbourhood may increase the likelihood that parents will drink at home, and thus may undermine their ability to properly supervise their children's activities, resulting in injuries due to neglect. It is also possible that children are harmed more often when a parent either disciplines or lashes out at a child when s/he has been drinking.
My Comments: Studies like this show us how important it is for local governments to take into account the impact businesses have to ALL members of society.
Reports of child abuse in Israel have almost doubled in the past decade, according to figures delivered to the National Council for the Child. In 2007, 41,000 reports of child abuse were received, as compared to 21,000 in 1997. The data was collected from welfare agencies.
Recent details provided by the Social Workers Union state that there are only 43 child investigators countrywide who are in a position to interview child abuse victims. This translates to a waiting list that is more than four-months long for children to meet with professionals who can assess their situations and then act accordingly. An agreement between the Union and the Ministry states that social workers can only take on 25 new cases a month and interview only one child per day due to the emotional intensity of the job. As of today, there are reportedly more than 400 children waiting to meet with one of the 43 available social workers. In light of three recent cases where pre-school-aged children were murdered by their parents, the number of child abuse reports is expected to climb sharply.
My Comments: Israel cannot take a strictly reactive approach to child abuse. While they do need more social workers to deal with a backlog of cases, prevention/educational programs are paramount to dealing with this highly pervasive issue. Without a proactive approach, the situation will only worsen; and the hiring of more and more social workers will not solve the problem of ongoing child abuse.
A new breed of Child Advocacy Centre will open its doors in St. Catherines, Ontario today September 16, 2008. The first of its kind in Canada, the Centre is anything but institutional. Within the building of interview rooms, a doctor's office and a family counselling services room, there is a look and feel that children and their families will feel comfortable in. The walls are painted a bright sunny yellow. Homemade throw-rugs greet visitors at they enter. Rooms are filled with toys and furniture geared toward children. This is all in an effort to provide a safe environment for abused children to tell their stories; which they can do in a child-friendly law enforcement room while representatives from other child welfare agencies can watch and listen to the interview via a computer screen in another room. Besides providing a safe and child-friendly environment, the goal of the centre is to simplify the investigation process by providing a one-stop destination for these children. Currently, children who have been physically or sexually abused must endure seven interviews during the course of an investigation into the allegations of abuse. The Centre wants to reduce that number of interviews to one or two by having the applicable agencies working together within the Centre. The $750,000 price tag for the Centre has been paid for using only community raised funds. Toys and furnishings have been donated by various members of the community.
My Comments: What a wonderful model for the rest of Canada, indeed, for the rest of the world. Hats off to the community of St. Catherines, Ontario for having the foresight (and pockets) to see the value in such a project!
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Darlene Barriere is a child abuse survivor, a violence and abuse prevention educator and author of On My Own Terms, A Memoir. She lives in semi-arid Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, John.