Reducing child abuse and neglect here at home

Cassandra Clifford, DC Human Rights Examiner, May 22, 2009

When we think of human rights our minds most often drift to images in distant countries, women and children in refugee camps, child soldiers, forced labor, etc. The struggle for human rights continues right here in the United States, as millions of our own children face abuse and neglect. Each year there are over 3 million children reported as victims of abuse and neglect, a toll which impacts the remainder of these children lives as their innocence is stripped away. Around four children a day in the U.S. die as a result of child abuse and neglect every day.

The cost of child abuse and neglect cost tax-payers around $104 billion, as more and more children are brought into protective custody and placed in the welfare system. While the child welfare has not only a role to protect and house children who have been victimized, they also have an important role in prevention. However the prevention efforts have recently come under considerable strain due to funding and regulatory constraints. Many have been asking for years if our child welfare system was adequately safeguarding and caring for children, however as budget cuts continue more and more children are being placed at risk. Those who seem to find the most struggle as the system continues to weaken, are teens, who often find themselves marginalized. Thousands of adolescents leave home every year due to abuse, many of which do enter the welfare system and find foster care; however some 125,000 teenagers continue to wait for placement. The wait added to the strain of abuse, neglect and feelings of abandonment are only an additional burden to some 25,000 of these vulnerable young people to completely leave the system each year, as they reach the age of 18. These young adults are cast out with little resources and assistance, already overwhelmed with feelings of self-doubt; now face an uphill battle into mainstream adulthood.

Without a strong and an adequate child welfare system in place, more and more at-risk teens are forced to turn to private organizations for assistance. However these non-profit organizations are also beginning to feel the strain and quite often lack the adequate funding and facilities to care for what is often an overwhelming number of teens in need. Quite simply there are more children and adolescents in need then there are resources and services for them. This gap in our welfare system is not something we can over look; it is not a dilemma that simply melts away as the children turn into adults.
"Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime." - Herbert Ward
While the bruises of the body fade in time, the scars of child abuse never fade. Children are never the same again after an abuser has entered their lives; they lose not only the innocence of childhood, but also the chance at a normal future. One cannot erase the memories of abuse; they live in conscious and the subconscious, invading every aspect of one’s life. Child abuse victims are given a life sentence, forced to live in the shadows of their abusers. Victims of child abuse, who do not receive adequate treatment and support, often continue in a perpetual cycle of abuse, others find themselves in a continual struggle to stay above the margins of poverty.

Therefore it is critical that we address these system-wide problems and seek have lead to increased efforts by non-profits and legislators. Last year, Congress passed the PROTECT Our Children Act, the legislation helps law enforcement track and prosecute sexual predators targeting children. The act is a victory and success in helping to keep our children safe, but it is not a one stop solution and guarantee. One other such effort is Congressional Bill H.R. 618, an important piece of legislation which will require the President to call a White House Conference on Children & Youth in 2010. H.R. 618 was introduced in January; however it is still in the early stages of the legislative process. While our representatives are in the midst of debating the bill, it's urgent that individual citizens gather in support. Please write to your Congressional representatives today so that they'll see H.R. 618 all the way through! Contact information for your local representative can be found at

While increased legislative measures and funding are a must, they are not the only keys to fighting child abuse and neglect here at home. Knowing the warning signs of abuse are fundamental for every adult in keeping our children safe from harm, awareness is the first step in prevention.

Chris Cejas Network To End Child Abuse

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment