Staggering child abuse numbers released

The federal government estimates about 1,650 deaths every year, but the actual number may be twice as high. A recently released Associated Press study looked at the number of child deaths in our country in connection to a child abuse or neglect investigation.

The AP study shows more than 700 confirmed child abuse deaths over a six-year period that happened while abuse and neglect cases were under investigation.

That’s well below the federal government estimate of 1,600 a year. The study shows that’s partly because there is no set standard way to report these deaths. AP said complete data doesn’t exist which makes it “difficult to measure how well those responsible for keeping children safe are protecting their most vulnerable charges”.

The study shows in Tennessee, 31 children died from 2008 to 2012, but it’s not clear whether a child abuse case was opened before or after the child’s death. Missouri had 25 deaths from 2008 to 2013 while an abuse or neglect case was ongoing.

From the 2008 to 2013 fiscal year Illinois showed 33 deaths, and Kentucky had 7 deaths while an abuse or neglect case was open.

Local 6 met with one local organization that’s working to help bring those numbers down. Child Watch Counseling and Advocacy Center in Paducah helps stop and prevent child abuse. It’s run on donations and grants.

‘Child Watch’ helps through therapy, and in the courtroom by volunteers participating in CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates. Executive Director Lee Emmons said the CASA program helps give a voice to a child whose cases are in court due to abuse or neglect.

“They don’t have 40 different cases. Having that volunteer advocate, that extra set of eyes, and ears make a real difference for that child,” Emmons said.

Emmons said it’s not just about stopping abuse, but preventing it. That’s why they have programs at local schools to help put an end to abuse before it begins. She said it’s not uncommon for a student to speak up after every visit, and that’s why it’s important to talk to children about abuse.

“That abuse is not okay and that there is help available. The big message is that it’s okay to tell. That’s a very important part of our child abuse prevention message,” Emmons said.

She said she hopes more people become aware of child abuse because it affects the whole community.

“It is a crime that we must all be aware of and work to stop – whether that’s taking action to report suspected abuse, lending a hand to help a struggling family, or supporting organizations that work against child abuse,” Emmons said.

The Child Watch’s prevention program reaches 11,000 elementary school children in our area every year.

A separate report in Kentucky prepared by the Division of Protection and Permanency, the Department for Community Based Services, and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services shows 9 children died this past fiscal year with prior involvement from DCBS. None of those were in our area – Ballard, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Trigg and Todd counties.

The report showed nineteen children almost died with prior involvement from DCBS, three of those were in our area.

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