An article appearing in the Star Tribune May 29th by Seema Jilani (Houston Pediatric physician) points out the stunning impact that the economic chaos and anti tax sentiment are having on the abused and neglected children that I came to know as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem.

It is painful to know that children who come from trauma and abuse, are now finding fewer services, more burdened staff, less resources, and inevitably, less chance of finding help in many communities.

Seema points out that a Hawaii program that had serviced 4000 families now services 100, South Carolina now has caseload ratios as high as 60 to 1 in some regions & that nearly half of the abused children murdered in Texas have been investigated by Child Protective Services.

I did know most of the financial problems facing the people and programs created to help abused and neglected children. I also know that eliminating those programs will not save communities any money*.

I did not know that children raised in families with incomes under $15,000 are 22 times more likely to to be abused and I am well aware of the dismal standing of certain states when it comes to how they treat children.

*The articles underlined herein give several perspectives on the near sightedness that has unfortunately captured otherwise clear thinking policymakers for many years now. Until a longer view is adopted, America’s prisons will remain full, its schools troubled, and its streets unsafe.

Seema Jilani’s Article;

By SEEMA JILANI, McClatchy Newspapers
Last update: May 28, 2010 – 6:09 PM
We doctors are a cynical bunch. The novelty of the white coat expires after a short time treating drug addicts, combative schizophrenics and patients whose idea of “how-do-you-do” is threatening a lawsuit. This is to say nothing of conducting pelvic exams, bosses with God complexes and extracting a baseball bat that got stuck up someone’s backside when he “fell on it.”
Few things shock us, but cruelty to children is one of them.

Behind closed doors, we even pontificate on the need for strict contraception laws. “Birth control should be sprayed into the air,” we muse. “If people want children, they should pass drug tests and home evaluations.” Another of our suggestions is that the government should lace fast food with trace amounts of contraceptives, so that people who eat it occasionally are unaffected, but those who exist on it are sterilized.

Bitter? Maybe. Harsh? Absolutely.

The inconceivable becomes plausible, however, after you see a 9-month-old boy test positive for mommy’s crystal meth and shaken baby syndrome render a 6-month-old girl blind, or after treating the burns on a young girl who was dipped in boiling oil and the cigarette burns on her sister’s back in the shape of a marijuana leaf. When a 13-year-old boy dies from heat stroke because he was chained to a tree overnight, “Proposition McSterilization” starts to make sense.

Three million reported cases of child abuse and neglect result in 2,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2001, 30,000 American children have been killed in their own homes, taken their own lives or been murdered in their own neighborhoods, according to Every Child Matters, a child advocacy group.

Why does the United States lead the world’s richest democracies in child abuse fatalities, with death rates three times higher than Canada’s and 11 times higher than Italy’s?

Now the nation’s and the states’ financial crises are leading to budget cuts to child services in more than 40 states. In Hawaii, Every Child Matters reports, funding for a child abuse reduction program was slashed so much that two years after serving 4,000 families, it can afford to serve only 100. In South Carolina, five state-run homes for children were closed. Child Protective Services is severely understaffed, with caseload ratios as high as 60 to one in some regions.

Nearly half of all the Texas children who are killed by abuse belonged to families that had been investigated by Child Protective Services. In order to keep families united, CPS attempts to place children with safe family members. While its motives are admirable, CPS should put a higher priority on protecting children from monsters than it does on keeping families together.

The single best predictor of child abuse is poverty. Children raised in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused. One in five American children, more than 14 million, live in poverty.

Budget cuts are taking a toll in California, too. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed discarding the state’s welfare-to-work program, effectively eliminating aid for roughly a million children.

If the most prosperous country in the world can afford to fight two wars, battle terrorism in far-off lands and bail out Wall Street, why can’t it offer its most vulnerable and voiceless citizens anything but bureaucratic red tape?

Seema Jilani is a Houston physician who specializes in pediatrics. A version of this commentary was published in the British newspaper the Guardian. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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