CHICAGO, IL, February 12, 2015 – There’s a public health tale about two people walking-up to a river and seeing children floating by. One person says we need to pull these children out of the water, and the other says yes we do, but what we really need to do is go to the head of the river and figure out why they’re falling in to begin with.
We were reminded of this tale as we read “Shame on U.S.- Failings by All Three Branches of Our Federal Government Leave Abused and Neglected Children Vulnerable to Further Harm,” the recent report from the Children’s Advocacy Institute.
This report is speaking truth to power, and eloquently points out what’s wrong with the child welfare system at every level.The report also points to what can be done to improve the situation as we seek to ensure great childhoods and equal opportunities for the healthy development of all children:
– We can invest in real, evidence-based prevention such as home visiting, and programs like Healthy Families America, to keep kids out of the system on the first place.
– We can put child well-being front and center on the national policy agenda.
– We can develop and enforce certain maltreatment standards among all states, and the report calls for some of that, particularly in defining maltreatment.
– We can go to the head of the river, but we must also acknowledge, that the report is dangerously silent on primary prevention.
You could argue that this is not the intended topic of the report, that the report is intended as a call to action to the public agencies who serve children and families. But prevention is our mission at Prevent Child Abuse America, we want to prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs, and the responsibility for doing so goes well beyond public agencies alone.
The report also points out the inconsistencies in accounting for the children known to the child welfare systems; a topic we write about every year when the annual federal report on Child Maltreatment is released. The lack of uniform definitions is important, because it prohibits
maltreatment trend analysis even in the same state and does not allow for a true assessment of the issue nationally. It also places the ordinary citizen in a state of confusion because of inconsistent understanding as to whether maltreatment is increasing or decreasing.
We advocate for the development of a comprehensive measure of how well public agencies promote child well-being; a definition and accompanying benchmarks that go beyond child protective services that serves kids whose well-being already has been compromised. Public health, education, law enforcement, public welfare and each of us all have a role to play in overall child well-being, not just child protective services.
Our 2012 study on the economic impact of child abuse and neglect shows that the U.S. spends $80 billion each year on services focused on everything from mental health to juvenile justice; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that each victim of child abuse will cost the nation approximately $210,000 over the course of their lifetime. Prevention is the right thing to do and it offers a strong return on the investment
It’s time we go to the head of the river, and we hope you will join us by:
- Learning more about how we can prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs.
- Volunteering at local child and family-serving agencies, such as those in our chapter network.
- Advocating for expanded prevention strategies such as home visiting in the communities and states where you live.
If you don’t know how to take these actions, please let us know, we’ll be happy to help you figure it out.
“Improving the Child Protective Services system, as this report so eloquently describes, is critical and analogous to building new hospitals to fight a disease,” said James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America. “We must garner the public and political will to allocate the funds it will cost to reduce the likelihood of a child needing to go to a hospital or into the child protective services system. We have the evidence-based strategies to do that, all we have to do now is demand the resources to bring them to scale.”