2010-01-21 / Features

When Child Abuse Leads To Child Death

By The Fulton County Center For Families

Last year, 50 children in Pennsylvania died from child abuse or neglect. Fewer than half of the families were known to child welfare services. According to Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters, a nonpartisan organization working to make children and families a national political priority, “Much can be done to reduce these child abuse and neglect deaths. There exists a vast body of knowledge about healthy child growth and development, including how to prevent abuse in the first place and how to protect children from further harm if abuse should occur. But, the sheer amount of child abuse and neglect in America – already more than 20 million reports of maltreatment made to government agencies in this decade – is certain evidence that, despite the best efforts of the many who work daily to address this problem, we continue to fall far short in applying our knowledge.”

The tragic death of an infant in Harrisburg reminded us of the efforts needed to educate the public about child abuse and the resources available to prevent abuse from happening and escalating. One way to keep children safe is to encourage every community member to report suspected abuse. “Many children who suffer abuse are never reported,” says Angela Liddle, executive director of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA). “That’s why it’s so important for all of us as citizens to be aware of the children who live and play in our local communities. All too often, people fear ‘getting involved,’” Liddle said. “However, that one call may ... save a child’s life.” A major focus of PFSA is providing training for mandated reporters of child abuse. We can protect children by bringing suspected abuse or neglect to the attention of child welfare agencies. Often, these agencies can reach out with preventive services to families before the situation escalates and results in serious injury or death. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, we urge you to call ChildLine at 800- 932-0313 to report it.

Because most child abuse happens at the hands of parents, PFSA sponsors programs that help prevent child abuse by educating and supporting parents – with parenteducation classes, peer support groups and home visitor programs statewide. These programs, along with services that address poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues, create a safety net for families and protect vulnerable children. To learn more about these programs, please call PFSA toll free in Pennsylvania at 800-448-4906 or visit our Web site at www.pafsa. org.

Needless to say, each child death is one too many. All of us can make a difference in a child’s life by supporting programs that prevent abuse and by reporting suspected abuse or neglect.

Did You Know?

• Fifty children died from abuse in Pensylvania last year, four more than 2007 and 19 more than 2006. Of these 50 children, 23 had no prior involvement with the child welfare system.

• Between 2001 and 2007, 308 children died form child abuse and neglect in Pennsylvania. Several studies suggest that the number of children who die from child abuse and neglect is actually larger than reported.

• Twenty of the children who died last year in Pennsylvania were under 1 year of age, 25 were between the ages of 1 and 4, one was between 5 and 9, and three were between 10 and 14.

• In the overwhelming majority of cases, the perpetrator in these fatal incidents was the child’s mother or father. The next largest category of perpetrators was a paramour of the child’s parent.

• One in 100 cases of substantiated child abuse in Pennsylvania resulted in a child’s death. Child abuse killed more children in Pennsylvania last year than cancer.

• Compared with other rich countries, the United States child death rate is off the scale. The U.S. rate is three times higher than Canada’s and 11 time higher than Italy’s. The closest to the U.S. rate is France, with 1.4 children out of 100,000 dying due to abuse or neglect; 2.4 out of 100,000 die in the United States.

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