WASHINGTON- Almost 10,500 children died from abuse and neglect in the U.S. in the last seven years,according to a new report released Wednesday. The report found that more than 1,760 children died in 2007,a 35 percent increase from 2001.
Leaders from child welfare organizations and actors from NBC's “Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit” gathered at the Capitol to demand that elected officials act on the issue. The rally marked the beginning of a two-day summit to discuss preventing and eliminating child-abuse deaths.
“For many Americas,child abuse is an invisible problem,something they never witness either directly or indirectly,” Dr. Carole Jenny,a professor of pediatrics at Brown University,said at the rally. “The bruises and scars of abuse,whether they are physical or emotional remain hidden from friends and from families.”
Jenny said that children need to be a priority for both health care providers and politicians.
“Despite the fact that child abuse and neglect impact millions of Americans,we spend far less on preventing,detecting and treating it,than we do on many other rare diseases and conditions,” Jenny said.
The report,issued by the Every Child Matters Education Fund,said that Texas has the highest number of child-abuse deaths,1,509 from 2001 to 2007. The state spent $37.24 per capita on child welfare. The death rate is 4.71 per 100,000 population.
But that's $22.52 more than South Carolina,which spent the least,$14.72. It had 141 deaths,or 3.35 per 100,000 population. Rhode Island,which spent the most on childhood welfare per capita,at $181.34,had 15 child abuse deaths,or 1.39 per 100,000 population.
One of the recommendations the report make to elected officials is to provide adequate funding for a national system of child protection. The fund works with a number of other child welfare groups on children's issues and to bring attention to the issue,especially during elections.
Actors Tamara Tunie,who plays a medical examiner,and B.D. Wong,who plays a forensic psychiatrist,attended the rally and are to participate in the two-day summit. They are featured in a “Law and Order SVU” episode about child abuse that was to air Wednesday.
Sen. Bob Casey,D-Pa.,called death by child abuse an “unspeakable tragedy,” and said that the U.S. needs to take action by increasing funding to the Victims of Child Abuse Act and organizations that address child abuse.
“When we talk about the death of a child,we're talking not about potential,a light that might shine brightly or less so,we're talking about a life and a light that has been snuffed out,” Casey said.
Teresa Huizar,executive director of the National Children's Alliance,said there are 700 children advocacy centers around country that deal with child abuse and neglect,but they don't exist in 1,250 counties. She called for a national and local partnership to address and prevent childhood mortality by abuse.
“We believe that a difference can truly be made for those children,” Huizar said. “Next year,we can say we've reduced those numbers,and eventually the number of child abuse fatalities can be zero.”
According to the report,children living in poverty are 22 times more likely to be abused than children living in families with higher incomes.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy,D-R.I.,said that they key to preventing and ending child abuse and neglect is through mentoring at-risk parents who come from violent homes,were in correctional facilities or are recent veterans.
“A lot of them don't know any better but to repeat the cycle of violence that they were brought up in,” Kennedy said of parents who abuse their children. “We need to break the cycle and the way we do that is through evidence based intervention.”
Max Skolnik,executive director of Kid Power DC,an after-school program in Washington,said he was shocked and disturbed by the statistics in the report.
“Children are so full of life,but when abuse takes hold of them that light starts to fade,and it hurts my heart to see children shut down,” Skolnik said.
Darice Stevens,37,a social work major at University of the District of Columbia,said more needs to be done to prevent child abuse across the country.
“It bothers me that children are being murdered,” said the mother of four.