Leaders say that nation can and must do more to prevent child abuse and neglect through early childhood home visiting programs
CONTACT FOR EXPERT AVAILABILITY
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With jurors set to deliberate on the alleged sexual abuse committed by Jerry Sandusky, the scandal represents just the tip of the iceberg, the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids said Thursday. Nearly 700,000 U.S. children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in 2010. At least 1,560 of these children died a result. Tragically, the vast majority of abuse, sexual or otherwise, is committed by a child's parent or other family or household member. The youngest children are the most at-risk for these types of deadly cases of maltreatment: one third of child abuse and neglect victims are under age 4, and almost half of child abuse and neglect fatalities were infants.
"No matter the verdict, this case is an urgent reminder that all of us have a responsibility to protect children from harm, and we can and must do more to prevent cases of abuse wherever and whenever we can. The research shows that we can start doing that by ensuring that at-risk families have access to voluntary home visiting with proven ability to help prevent child abuse," said Natasha O'Dell Archer, J.D., national director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
While the response to the Sandusky case has focused attention on important issues that come up after a child has been victimized, the early prevention of child abuse and neglect has been discussed far less. In fact, in the last interview he ever gave, Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno told the Washington Post, "If nothing else maybe the Sandusky scandal will help drag the subject out of its dark corner."
In the interest of preventing more victims of child abuse, the law enforcement organization Fight Crime: Invest In Kids is leading a national effort to educate the public on the problem of child abuse and neglect and call on policymakers to fund effective programs that prevent child abuse.
More than 1,560 law enforcement leaders and survivors—one for every child who lost their life to abuse or neglect—have signed a letter urging Congress to protect and expand funding for evidence-based home visiting services (see a list of who signed the letter). The letter emphasized the benefits of voluntary home visiting services, which help new parents cope with the stresses of raising a young child.
Research shows quality, voluntary home visiting programs can cut child abuse and neglect by up to 50 percent, significantly reduce later crime and save taxpayers money. Evidence-based home visiting can save as much as $21,000 for each family served by reducing abuse, neglect, juvenile crime and other negative outcomes (read more on how home visiting works).
Focusing on the range between prenatal care to preschool age, home visiting programs send specialized paraprofessionals to the homes of low-income, first-time young mothers, These home visitors provide guidance to young parents and help families address head-on the most prevalent reasons for child abuse and neglect. Law enforcement leaders fully support the home visiting approach to child abuse prevention because it breaks a cycle in which all too often the negative behaviors and consequences, violent or otherwise, of one at-risk generation are passed on to the next generation, and the cycle continues.
The signatories of the letter, members of the anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, pointed to hundreds of thousands of cases of abuse or neglect that occur every year and said that the scope of the problem should "shock the conscience of every American."
"From a fiscal, moral and public safety perspective, we have an obligation to invest in home visiting and protect children from the harm caused by abuse and neglect," the leaders agreed.
RESOURCES: Read our letter to Congress. Get quick facts on child abuse and neglect from our info-graphic. Get data on abuse/neglect and child deaths in your state from our national report. Read real-life stories from law enforcement and survivors.
SOURCE Fight Crime: Invest in Kids