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Barriere Bits, Issue #012 Failing grade on child abuse policies of many States: US Report
May 20, 2008

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:

The Website:

There has been yet another change to the way comments are displayed on the individual story, article, commentary and Ask Darlene pages; indeed, on ALL such pages. A new upgrade has allowed me to show comments on the same page as the original submission, AND to show comments in the order in which they were received--first in appears first. I've opted for this format because it more accurately reflects that of a forum, where comments themselves are sometimes offered on previous comments. This new order makes it easier to follow a particular thread. It also allows for a more logical flow when contributors are forced to post a Part 1 and Part 2 because of the 3000 character limit.

As for adding your own comments to any thread, there are two possible scenarios. If there have been no comments to date for the original submission, the link to add your comment can be found at the very bottom of the page as "Click here to post comments." If others have already commented on the original submission, there will be a heading after the submission starting with the words "Comments for" followed by the title of the page. Immediately below this heading is the link that reads "Click here to add your own comments." When you click onto that link, you'll be taken to the page with the applicable comment form. For ease of navigation, a second link to the applicable comments form can be found at the end of the comments string.

While I understand there is a new learning curve whenever changes are made to the system, the upgrades are done to ultimately provide a more coherent experience for my contributors, as well as all my visitors who are reading these particular pages.

Expect additional upgrades in the coming year.


Federal law requires all States to publicly disclose deaths and serious injuries of children. But according to a report just released by two child advocacy groups (University of San Diego School of Law Children's Advocacy Institute and First Star, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping abused and neglected children) most States do not release adequate information. This is in part due to the fact that the federal law does not specify what information should be divulged. Without adequate information for the public and authorities to scrutinize, child welfare systems cannot be held accountable for mishandled cases, nor can future tragedies be prevented.

The report specifies the following should be disclosed:

  • the cause and circumstances of a case;
  • the child's age and gender;
  • if and how Social Services agencies had monitored the family.

The report rated each State based on:

  • policies or laws regarding disclosure;
  • accessibility and extent of the information;
  • whether court proceedings are open.

Although nearly half the States received a grade of "B-" or higher, more than half were issued grades of "C+" or lower, including 10 States that were issued an "F" (see below).

Nevada = A
New Hampshire = A

California = A-
Indiana = A-
Iowa = A-
Oregon = A-

Florida = B+
Illinois = B+
New York = B+

Arizona = B
Kansas = B
Minnesota = B
Washington = B

Alabama = B-
Connecticut = B-
District of Columbia = B-
Hawaii = B-
Idaho = B-
Michigan = B-
Mississippi = B-
Missouri = B-
New Jersey = B-
West Virginia = B-

Nebraska = C+
Ohio = C+
Oklahoma = C+
Texas = C+

Alaska = C
Delaware = C
North Carolina = C
South Carolina = C

Arkansas = C-
Kentucky = C-
Louisiana = C-
Rhode Island = C-
Virginia = C-

Maine = D+

Colorado = D
Wisconsin = D
Wyoming = D

Massachusetts = D-

Georgia = F
Maryland = F
Montana = F
New Mexico = F
North Dakota = F
Pennsylvania = F
South Dakota = F
Tennessee = F
Utah = F
Vermont = F

My Comments: In a country that boasts of such high living standards, in a country that spends trillions on armed warfare overseas, in a country so willing to provide aide to other countries in order to protect its own assets, it is inconceivable that so many States would be so lacking when it comes to the welfare of their most vulnerable members of society.


Last month, Canada passed a federal law that raises the age of consent for sexual activity from 14 to 16. Under the old law that had been in effect since 1892, children as young as 14 could consent to having sex with an adult of any age. Adults who now have sex with boys or girls under the age of 16 could face criminal charges. The legal age to consent to sodomy remains at 18. The section of the law that has not changed refers to those in a position of power: Minor children cannot consent to sexual relations with someone who is in a position of trust or authority over them, such as a teacher, counsellor, youth leader, coach, etc.

My Comments: As a violence and abuse prevention educator, I found our Canadian laws regarding this issue to be a national disgrace. Our government finally recognized that children of 14 are not mature enough to consent to sexual relations with an adult. At 14, Canada's age of consent was among the lowest in Western nations; typically, the age is somewhere between 16 and 18. I personally would have liked to have seen the age raised to 18, but at least it was finally raised.

United Kingdom:

The UK Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has called for a worldwide campaign by governments, law enforcement and the Internet industry to both investigate and disrupt sites that promote child abuse, depict criminally obscene material and advocate racism. According to research done by IWF regarding the number of sites that trade such images, there are 2,755 worldwide. It is believed that 80% of such sites are fully commercial operations.

The IWF was set up in 1996 as a self-regulating charity which is funded by the European Union and the Internet industry. IWF proposes that:

  • an international partnership be developed to investigate, disrupt and remove sites that promote child abuse;.
  • hotline information be shared to ensure the longevity of sites is reduced;
  • countries adopt an initiative intended to block access to websites that promote child abuse;
  • domain registries work to de-register domains associated with abuse.

My Comments: The work of the IWF has resulted in a considerable decrease in the number of child abuse content websites that are based in the UK: less than 1% since 2003, down from 18% in 1997. Given their impressive track record, I'm all for this IWF proposal.

New Zealand:

Child deaths could be halved using a 4-point plan that would include medical evaluations of all infants reported to Child, Youth and Family (CYF), according to Dr. Patrick Kelly, a leading child-abuse doctor and Clinical Director of Starship Hospital in Auckland.

Statistics reflect that most children who died were under the age of 3; and 20% of those children were known to CYF beforehand. Dr. Kelly stated that based on studies done overseas, 30% of infants found to have suffered abusive head trauma had not been identified as victims of abuse when they were first brought to health care professionals. "If you put 30 plus 20 together, that's 50%. We could reduce these infant deaths by 50% just by doing what we already know," Dr. Kelly said.

Unicef's league table, last done in 2003, showed that among 27 developed countries, New Zealand has the 3rd worst record of child deaths due to maltreatment, behind only Mexico and the United States.

Dr. Kelly's plan includes:

  • Home visiting programmes to tackle violence, substance abuse and maternal depression.
  • Training of doctors, nurses and midwives to identify signs of child abuse.
  • A national system that would alert health care professionals about families where abuse has occurred.
  • Paediatricians to assess all children under age 2 that have been referred to CYF.

My Comments: "…doing what we already know." What a novel idea! Would New Zealand be prepared to fund such a plan? We can always hope, but based on recent history, it seems unlikely.

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Author Bio

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.

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