As a long time volunteer County CASA guardian ad Litem it has been hard to comprehend the explosive growth of child abuse in my lifetime. This study (lead author Hyunil Kim PhD Student at the Brown School at Washington University St Louis) to be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health is troubling on several levels.
First, to reach numbers this high by only including reports of child abuse that met County standards for a case to be investigated, indicates that this already high number (37% overall & 53% for Black Children) should be much higher than it already is.
When four year old Eric Dean was murdered by his foster mom after 15 largely ignored reports of abuse by mandated reporters, there were four Minnesota counties screening out 90% of the abuse calls they received. The State average was 66% screened out at the time. Arizona completely ignored over 6000 abuse reports a few years ago and many states have very little transparency or accountability for how screened out cases are managed or kept track of. Social workers in MN were not allowed (by statute) even to review prior reports of abuse when investigating a new report of abuse at the time of Eric Dean’s death.
Second, each state and every county has it’s own set of standards for determining what constitutes abuse. Like it or not, those states and counties with the least resources for child protection simply require a great deal more abuse before a child’s case will meet the standards to be investigated. In other words, children in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and other states that put only token resources into child well being/child protection have standards and procedures that lead to workers ditching 6000 abuse files rather than assigning them to workers (that are already overburdened) to be investigated.
To make my point, know this;
Thirty years ago, MN law makers passed legislation accepting the fact that children traumatized by watching their mothers being beaten or raped actually met the standard of abuse requiring a child abuse case to be filed. Within one year, caseloads doubled and the legislature reversed its the statute to the way it had been because the state would not find the resources required to manage the increased caseloads.
For a nation that prides itself in morality and spirituality, we really owe it to ourselves and our youngest most vulnerable citizens to change these sad facts.
Please share this with your friends in other states. This discussion is at least thirty years overdue.