Here we are, more than halfway through National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the news isn’t exactly full of information on the topic. Yet every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. In fact, the United States has the highest rate of deaths by child abuse of any industrialized nation.
How do we get the word out about these staggering statistics? And more important, what are we going to do to stop child abuse and neglect in its tracks? Systems are set up to intervene after abuse is reported, but how do we prevent the abuse in the first place? The answer is that with everyone’s help, we can do something.
We need to start by treating child abuse and neglect like the preventable public health menace that it is. We can demand that politicians support programs aimed at reducing domestic violence and poverty. We can tell them we want funding for counseling, childcare and parenting training for struggling families. We can reach out to caregivers we know who are overwhelmed. We can advocate for child victims through organizations such as National CASA, or become foster or adoptive parents ourselves. And we can report suspected abuse and neglect with a confidential call to 866-363-4276.
The costs of allowing child abuse and neglect to continue in America are simply too high. In fact, one study indicates that the price tag on maltreatment over just one child’s lifetime in health care, social services and productivity losses is huge — $210,012 for non-fatal cases and $1,272,900 for fatal situations. Those numbers are comparable to the cost of raising a child to adulthood in a middle-class family.
The human cost is just as severe, including poorer physical and mental health — an impact that can last throughout the child’s life.
We should do all we can to prevent child abuse and support its victims. Every child, regardless of traumatic experiences, has the potential to grow up to be a happy, productive and responsible adult. Our CASA programs see statistics translated to success stories every day. Just last week, I was in the audience when Suamhirs Rivera, a young man who credits a CASA volunteer with turning his life around received an Immigrant Youth Achievement Award for his foster care advocacy work.
With your help, we can create more success stories like this one. The good you can do for a child in your community will last a lifetime — yours and the child’s.