As the economy falters and many Americans are left on the brink of desperation, it is children who are often the victims of irrepressible adult anger.
Child protection agencies are reporting that there is a spike in child abuse cross the country.
In Boston, there were hundreds of new cases reported to Boston Children’s Hospital Child Protection Team. “In the last three months we have twice as many severe inflicted injury cases as we did in the three months the previous year,” said Allison Scobie, the program director to Reuters.
In one case a four-month-old was shaken, a three-week-old suffered fractured ribs, both from abuse at home. In another case, a nine-year-old diabetic boy was left in the hospital by his mother after she could no longer afford co-payments to afford his medical care.
“We’re getting swamped,” Robert Sage director of Boston Medical Center’s Child Protection Team said to Reuters. With already 500 children being treated with injuries from abuse last year, that number is up 30 percent so far in early 2009.
Massachusetts General Hospital has treated 25 children for abuse this year, compared with 16 for all of 2008.
Across the country, Chicago is reporting a nine percent rise in child abuse cases last year.
Ohio child abuse cases have topped 100,000 in 2007 and increased ever since, according to Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
Seattle has seen three times as many cases of children suffering subdural bleeding that result from blows to the head. Dr. Kenneth Feldman at Children’s Hospital says, “The vast majority are from families who are struggling financially.”
In Syracuse, the State University of New York there has treated 19 children with head injuries last year. Four children died.
A Mason-Dixon poll from March of law enforcement, police, and district attorneys, all expected to see a rise in child maltreatment as they’ve seen in the past during recessions.
Poverty and Neglect
Richard Wexler, of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform warns that expecting to see abuse does not make it so. He’d like to see the numbers but suspects that hypervigilance will follow the poll and a tendency to put more children in foster care.
He tells IB News, “If more are in homeless shelters, their apartment is foreclosed on or their home, poverty is often confused with child neglect and the children are taken away.”
He predicts we’ll see an increase in children being placed needlessly in foster care as many confuse poverty for neglect.
Instead, provide parents with rent subsidies and subsidies for day care, he suggests to reduce what's perceived as neglect and abuse.
Yet he agrees, “poverty is one of the primary factors leading to maltreatment,” and a 1995 Gallup Poll echoes that sentiment showing a strong correlation between family income and child abuse. Families earning less than $20,000 a year had three times the rate of physical abuse than those families earning $50.000 or more.
Signs of shaken baby syndrome are brain hemorrhage, eye hemorrhage, and damage to the ribs, neck or spine as fragile brains bounce around within the skull.
Injuries to children are up at the same time that many departments in charge of protecting children are having their budgets cut. #