Child Abuse Fatalities On The Rise
Sadly, statistics are showing child fatalities caused by abuse are on the rise with the majority of cases committed by parents.
In the most recent Annual Abuse Report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW), officials reveal for the year 2008 a total of 50 children in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania died as a result of child abuse or neglect. The figure is the highest number of recorded child deaths in the state since 2002.
“Far too many children are still being victimized as is shown by the shocking fact that nine out of every 1,000 children living in Pennsylvania were reported as victims of suspected child abuse in 2008 and the abuse was substantiated for two out of every 1,000 children,” said Gov. Ed Rendell in the report released to the general public in April 2009.
As a follow-up to the 2008 figures, officials pointed out 46 child abuse deaths were recorded in 2007 and 31 in 2006.
Perhaps even more sobering than the number of children who are dying as a result of neglect and abuse are the ages of those children succumbing to injuries. In 2008, the DPW reported 20 deaths involved children less than 1-year-old. Twenty-five children falling between the ages of 1 and 4 died, and one child was between 5 and 9 years old. Three fatality cases involved children, who were 10 to 14, the report concludes.
DPW’s report further delved into a county-by-county analysis of reported incidents and substantiated acts of child abuse. In Fulton County, DPW states, 40 cases of child abuse were reported to officials in both 2007 and 2008. Of those reports, eight cases were substantiated in 2007 as being actual acts of child abuse or neglect. Four cases were confirmed as child abuse in 2008.
According to Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) Executive Director Angela M. Liddle, the data also relates that child fatalities are most commonly committed by parents.
“This stands to reason since are with the children the majority of the time,” she said. “This is especially true for young children who are not attending school. It is also logical that younger children are more at risk. there is a great deal of education around pregnancy and the birthing process. There is far less education available once the child is born.”
“What is available is generally voluntary and must be sought out by parents. In many cases, parents of newborns and younger children are often exhausted and caught up in a very large balancing act filled with many responsibilities,” added Liddle.
“Many first-time parents are especially vulnerable as they adjust to parenting and may not be well versed in key child development issues or positive ways to respond to challenging situations like a baby who cries frequently and for a long duration.”
A perfect resource for parents, PFSA offers educational publications for parents and caregivers as well as referrals to local family support programs. Suggestions from PFSA for stressed parents, who are typically more likely to utilize physical punishment, include:
• Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing what you’re about to tell your child.
• Press your lips together and count until you calm down.
• Place your child in a timeout chair.
• Put yourself in a time-out chair.
• If someone is available to watch your children, take a walk.
• Be positive.
• Hug or yell at a pillow.
In addition to educational training for parents, PFSA also firmly believes in the need to offer proper education and training to professionals to better help them identify and report potential signs of abuse and neglect in children with disabilities. Research looking at children with cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities dictates that children with disabilities are three times more likely to be abused than peers without disabilities. Signs of child abuse range from unexplained bruises, bite marks and burns to overreactions to accidents and being uncomfortable with physical contact.
Individuals suspecting child abuse are urged to contact 1- 800-932-0313. Additional tips or training suggestions can be obtained from Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance at www.pafsa. org or locally by contacting the Fulton County Center for Families COPE program at 717- 485-4417.
COPE is an outreach program aimed at “providing parents with child development information, guidance and information on how to COPE with life’s everyday stresses.” Home visits and weekly support meetings are among the program’s approaches to improving both awareness and vital education.