CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION REQUIRES 2-PRONG APPROACH
by Dean Tong, MSc.
April 25, 2007
April is known as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and the government dedicates this month to our most precious resource – our children. Most commonly, children are victimized by physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Less frequently, child caregivers or guardians can be accused of psychological or emotional abuse, failure to protect, failure to thrive, or Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, a bizarre form of child abuse whereby the accused is trying to gain attention by purposefully making a child sick.
Perhaps the most influential federal child abuse prevention law that has gained steam since its inception in 1974 is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), aka The Mondale Act. This well-meaning, well-intentioned, but misguided legislation charged Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies nationally with the job of protecting our kids. It allowed neighbors with axes to grind or vindictive grudge bearers to call toll-free hot lines with anonymity and report anyone for child abuse. It created the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington, D.C which oversees NCANDS (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System). And it allowed for states to buttress their numbers of child protective investigators and programs by affording the same federal financial incentives, if they increased their numbers of substantiated investigations and numbers of dependent childen sent to foster care homes.
NCANDS compiled data for all of the states and published Child Maltreatment 2005 (child abuse statistics are always two years behind) recently. Over 60% of all child abuse investigation dispositions in 2005 were unsubstantiated. According to Dr. David Finkelhor, head of the crimes against children laboratory in Durham, New Hampshire, in a 2006 study he authored that was published in The Journal of Social Issues, he found that sexual child abuse substantiations between 1990 and 2004 decreased by 49%. And between 1992 and 2004 physical child abuse substantiations decreased by 43%.
Yet, the number of child abuse and neglect referral reports in 2005, nationally, totalled 2.1 million, with almost 1.2 million of the same deemed unsubstantiated and less than 500,000 deemed substantiated. Now, think about those numbers. Only one in four was a case of substantiated child abuse. Granted, that’s at least 500,000 children (and probably much more) that require our immediate attention and protection, but what about that other number? You know, the politically incorrect number? The number that does not bolster the pockets of this well-funded child abuse establishment and keep its wheels spinning?
According to a compelling article titled “The Effects of False Accusations upon Children and Families” authored by psychologists Hickman and Reynolds in 1994 from Texas A&M University, non-abused children treated as truly abused victims can be just as traumatized or more so as legitimately abused children. The number of child abuse reports remain fairly constant and the actual incidence of child abuse is waning. In summation, unfounded child abuse reports are occurring at an unacceptably high rate. Our agencies charged to protect abused and non-abused children must do a better job at prosecuting the guilty while at the same time leaving potential wounded innocents alone. The aforementioned child abuse numbers do not lie.