Child Abuse: Costly in every aspectPosted: April 2, 2009
By: Whitney Skeeters
A child you know has small, cigarette-shaped burns on the palms of his hands. When you ask him about it, he becomes both defensive and apprehensive. The more you think about it, you realize he always seems hungry and reluctant to go home, eager to spend time anywhere doing anything other than being with his family. You want to help but he vehemently refuses to talk or do anything that might alert his parents. What do you do next? Is there anything you can do?
More than one thousand pinwheels will be packed into the front yard of Saint Mary’s Healthcare System during the month of April. As the shiny, star-shaped toys dance and spin with every gust of wind, Athens is reminded of the plight of abused children in Morgan and surrounding counties. Each pinwheel represents one family served by Prevent Child Abuse Athens (PCAA), a federally funded organization to prevent child abuse and neglect in all forms through education, support and public awareness.
A PCAA representative said one way to capture the attention of the community is by letting them know the costs associated with the treatment of abused children. The tragic and avoidable burden placed on a child coupled with the lasting consequences it has on the community makes child abuse an issue deserving of attention this month.
Studies posted on www.preventchildabusega.org show the direct ramifications of child abuse weigh heavily on the nation’s already slim wallets. It costs $104 billion a year to care for the maltreatment of children, which is equivalent to roughly $1,600 per year per family. This money is typically spent on intervention, foster homes, and physical, emotional and psychological treatment.
The indirect consequences can be just as expensive. Children who are abused are more likely to be arrested, suffer psychological disorders, develop addictions, commit violent crimes, and continue the vicious cycle by abusing their own children. An estimated 18,000 children are permanently disabled each year as a result of abuse.
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in America. Approximately four children die each year as a result of abuse and neglect. According to the PCAA website, there were 1,087 confirmed incidents of abuse and neglect in Clarke, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties.
For every federal dollar spent on treating child abuse, one penny is spent on prevention.
“Prevention is a lot less expensive,” PCAA said.
The cost of educating children in county schools is about $3 per student.
Organizations like Prevent Child Abuse Athens depend on government grants and the contributions of locals. Their income for the fiscal year of 2008 was $599,748, while expenses were $576,079. With 185 families currently on a list as being at risk for abuse and neglect, they do their best to make each dollar count. Although parenting classes and in-home visitations are a big part of prevention, PCAA also focuses on educating the public about prevention and why it is important.
This April, PCAA will host its fourth annual “Prevent Child Abuse Walk” Saturday, April 4, beginning at 10 a.m. T-shirts will be sold for $9 each and post-walk presentations will be given along with the presentation of the pinwheels. County officials will deliver a proclamation that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Athens-Clarke County.
The Walk attracted 125 walkers last year and the presentations reached 1,040 people.
The Kappa Delta sorority hosts two events each year in April that benefit both local and national child abuse prevention groups. For more than a decade, the sorority has been raising thousands with Bass Classics, an annual fishing tournament held in Athens. They also host a Bar-be-q the week before that garners a lot of student support.
Treasurer Deana Veal said she is proud of her sorority’s involvement with the organization.
“Last year the Sigma Phi chapter raised over $15,000 through our events. Of those funds, 80 percent stay in Athens and support the local PCA Athens. The other 20 percent goes to PCA America,” Dean said. “The Kappa Delta sorority has raised over $9 million for PCA since we first began the events in 1983!”
Veal looks forward to this April’s bar-be-q and fishing tournament and hopes to hand over an even larger check at the end of the month. She also acknowledged the importance of spreading awareness of child abuse so everyone in the community knows what to look for.
Whenever abuse is suspected, it is the responsibility of community members to report what they have seen or heard. A report of abuse is not an accusation, but is merely a request for an investigation. Although many reports are unsubstantiated, thousands are legitimate problems needing the help of trained professionals. To access Georgia’s toll-free hotline with questions about making a report, call 1-800-CHILDREN. To make a report, call the Clarke County Department of Families and Children Services at 706-227-7003, and if the child is in immediate danger, call the police. The identity of the person making a report will remain confidential.
For more information on how to identify warning signs and tell-tale behavior, visit www.preventchildabusega.org.