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Child abuse prevention—it’s everyone’s business

Child abuse takes the lives of four children every day, affecting millions of children and families every year.
Each April, Child Abuse Prevention Month activities raise awareness about this problem-and what can be done to prevent child abuse and neglect. In 2007, the most recent year for which national child maltreatment statistics are available, an estimated 794,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect.
Of these, nearly 60 percent were neglected; more than 10 percent were physically abused; less than 10 percent were sexually abused; and less than 5 percent were emotionally maltreated.
Sadly, the highest rate of child maltreatment occurs to  children younger  then 4, said Gale Horinbein, social worker and Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) Project Coordinator. This age group also accounts for 76 percent of child fatalities. Abusive head trauma or Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the leading cause of death of physically abused children.
Annually, 11,604 children in South Carolina are affected by abuse, and South Carolina ranks 46th in the nation for overall well-being of children, according to the Kids Count State Profiles of Child Well-Being. Horinbein said these numbers alone make prevention everyone’s business.
Four out of five victims are abused by at least one parent. Experts believe many more cases go unreported and will never be brought to the attention of the state’s child protective agencies or law enforcement. Horinbein said this is unfortunate since reporting abuse can help connect families with counseling and other services to relieve a family’s stress, which in turn can save a life.
Horinbein wants to educate the community about how profound the impact of child abuse and neglect can be. Research shows that child maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and that those negative effects can last a lifetime. A history of child abuse and neglect has been associated with increased risk of mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and learning problems, social problems, teen pregnancy, lack of success in school,  domestic violence and chronic illnesses.
There also are economic repercussions. One analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect suggests that child maltreatment costs the nation approximately $103 billion each year.
“The statistics are alarming and bring to light the seriousness of this problem,” she said.
Lack of  knowledge of critical issues in parenting create problems that also may be compounded by financial burdens and mental health issues that can all lead to abusive or neglectful behavior, she said. Parents may lack an understanding of their children’s developmental stages and hold unreasonable expectations for their abilities. They may be unaware of alternatives to corporal punishment or how to discipline their children most effectively at each age. Parents also may lack knowledge of the health, hygiene and nutritional needs of their children.
“By helping parents who might be struggling with any of these challenges, you reduce the likelihood that their children will be abused or neglected. Prevention efforts build on family strengths.”
Horinbein supports prevention activities, such as parent education, home visitation, and parent support groups, that will provide families the support they need to stay together and care for their children.
“April’s observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to remind ourselves of our responsibility to prevent the abuse and neglect that robs so many children of their childhood, sense of security and well-being,” said Horinbein. “We know that the cycle of child abuse can be prevented through early intervention, support, and providing preventive services to families.”

A few facts on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)
  • The number one reason a baby is shaken is because of inconsolable crying.
  • Almost 80 percent of the perpetrators of SBS are male.
  • More than 60 percent of the victims of SBS are male.
  • SBS accounts for an estimated 10 to 12 percent of all deaths due to abuse and neglect.
  • Thousands of cases of SBS occur each year in the United States.
  • An estimated 25 to 50 percent of parents and caretakers aren’t aware of the effects of shaking a baby.

Friday, April 23, 2010

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