Child Abuse - Making Children a Top Priortiy

by Nicole P
(Colorado, USA)

I look around me, I see children in desperation. Looking for guidance, structure, someone dependable, someone to look out for there well being. In the United States child abuse has gone up since 2000, yet it seem like more should be done for this rising issue. I have considered the other important issues in the world, but feel this takes precedence over those at this moment in time. The state our children are in right now calls for some serious action to take place. Funding, awareness, and the number of social workers need to be increased. I have seen the effects of child abuse and the lack of resources the State of Colorado has to provide the community with. The United States, Congress, and law makers need to make child abuse a top priority and make some serious changes within the Child Protection Department.

Growing up my mom always told me I was lucky to be born in these times. She explained when she was growing up, if she got in trouble she would get hit with a wooden stick. My grandfather still had that wooden stick while I was growing up but never used it on me, only the boys a few times. My mother explained to me that back in the day parents could discipline their children without having to worry about any repercussions. I would call this form of discipline child abuse. I believe times have changed and the government and people of the United States need to make child abuse a top priority. I have taken into consideration all the other important issues in the world but with the child abuse rates increasing and our children being our future we need to get a handle on this issue.

Child abuse has reached an all time high and is a big problem in America. Recently, I volunteered at a home for abused and neglected children. This home was full of children ages 5-17, approx 40, with another 60 bused in every day to attend school. Some of these children have severe behavioral, emotional, and social problems stemming from the abuse or neglect they endured. I have seen children have all-out meltdowns in the hallways, cussing, hitting, and throwing things at the therapist. These are children with severe issues evolving from their abuse and not knowing how to act in a healthy environment. I have heard a child state to one of the counselors, "Go ahead and hit me I am use to it, that's what you want to do." It was very sad to hear a child say this, knowing that is what the child was used to. The Center is there to try and teach that child what healthy relationships are about, and hitting is not involved. There are many more homes like this around Denver, full to capacity. The staff expressed one of the biggest concerns are the funding cuts. The government is cutting funds for this issue every year. It would seem to me that the government would be increasing funds to help prevent child abuse or for the treatment of abused children. You hear way too often about a child being murdered by a parent or caregiver on the news. This is just not acceptable. Our children are precious and innocent beings, we need to protect them.

More proof that the government is not doing enough, I visited the Denver Department of Human Services, and there I spoke with a supervisor and a caseworker. The supervisor explained, they have 6 case workers, each having at least 20 cases or more even though the recommended number of cases is 15 per caseworker (Randelli). No wonder social workers get burnt out so quickly; they are given way too many cases, too much stress, and not enough pay. I was also informed that Denver has the highest child abuse rate out of any other county, if this is the case why not hire some more cases workers, increase the funds for Denver county, make the public more aware of the situation? The government is why; they only care about cutting funds and staying on budget. To me the issue of child abuse is one that needs to be dealt with immediately; our children will grow up with more problems than ever if we don’t. When it comes to education, I always hear our children are our future, let’s give them the best education possible. What about their safety, mental state, and well being? If they don’t have those basic needs met, education will go right out the window. One of the effects of an abused or neglected child is their gradual decline in school and with their behavior.

Child abuse around America is growing year after year, in 2009 the Dept of Human Services reported that in 2008, the state investigated almost 40,000 reports of child abuse or neglect. No one wants to think about the horrible possibilities some of these children face day after day, but that is why child abuse and neglect is such a huge problem. The numbers don’t lie, they have shown year after year the problem is getting worse, not better. Colorado confirmed 10,698 cases of child abuse in 2008 (Kempe). In 2008 , 32 children died from child abuse, also in 2007, 27 deaths, 2006. 24 deaths, 2005, 20 deaths, 2004, 35 deaths, and in 2003, 27 deaths all from child abuse. These numbers are shocking and should be cause for great concern (Kempe). In 2006, in America 1,500 children died from child abuse and over 3 million were abused or neglected. More children died in 2006 than U.S soldiers died in 2004 and 2005 (research by Foreign Policy Research Institute). Studies have shown that in Colorado 50%-60% of deaths due to abuse and neglect are not reported as such, which means more children are actually dying from abuse than we know. In America 78% of children killed in 2006 were under the age of 4 (Kempe). In 2006 43% of those children were white, 29% were African American, and 17% other. Horton & Cruise state "males and females seem to be equally at risk for physical abuse, although boys are at a higher risk for more severe physical abuse." Poverty seems to have a correlation with child abuse and neglect, but to me there is no excuse. Sure being poor brings upon more frustration and dilemmas but that is no reason to harm a child. If studies have shown that children coming from poverty are more likely to be neglected and abused then why are we not doing more to help poverty stricken families. The least we could do is give them resources to deal with the stress that comes along with poverty and give them tools on how to deal with the frustration and or free parenting classes. Yes there are resources out there but half the time no one knows about them. We need to teach our community about all the resources available. Every year funding is being cut everywhere, but places that funding should never be cut is from Human Services, Medicaid monies, and Child Protection offices. Governor Bill Ritter proposed new cuts in the budget for this year, this cut would set Human Services back $7 million dollars. This cut would affect child welfare services directly. Ritter states these cuts will be backfilled by TANF funds. So it’s a lose lose situation. These funds are needed desperately. The more funds that are cut from child welfare departments the more children will die each year from abuse and neglect. The Tennyson Center states "In 2006, the federal government cut 30 billion Medicaid dollars nationally, resulting in major cuts in Colorado’s residential treatment." Here the State of Colorado is cutting funds and a report from the University of Maryland shows we would need to increase payments to foster families by at least 76% in order to meet the cost of raising a child.

I was on vacation in Couer D’Alene, ID to visit a friend who lives in a 4-plex apartment building. Across the hall from my friend lives a young girl who was letting her friends, a young couple, stay with her because they were homeless and just had a newborn baby. Subsequently a week after I left the father of the baby had been arrested and charged with child abuse. He was accused of shaking the baby. Shaken baby syndrome. Shaking a baby is a common form of child abuse. The injuries caused by shaking a baby may not be immediately noticeable and may include bleeding in the eye or brain, damage to the spinal cord and neck, and rib or bone fractures. I was extremely bothered by this, maybe because I had seen this baby a week earlier or just the fact of wondering what would cause the father to do this to a helpless baby. According to NCANDS, 79.4% of perpetrators were parents and 6.8 percent were other relatives. The largest remaining categories of perpetrators were the unmarried partner of a child’s parent (3.8%) and other perpetrators (4.1%). In 3.6% of child maltreatment cases the perpetrators were missing or unknown. In under 1% the perpetrator was a foster parent, residential facility staff, the child’s daycare provider, a legal guardian, friends or neighbors, or other professionals (USDHHS, 2007).

Darlene Barriere: author. speaker. survivor. coachNote from Darlene: If I have not left a comment on your story, please understand that it is not personal; it's just that my hectic schedule no longer permits me to do so.

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