Everyone's problem

Unearthed failures in child welfare system must be fixed

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It’s enough to send chills through the bones of any loving, responsible parent – a recent newspaper investigation that found widespread failure in Georgia’s child welfare system.

Those failures, reported the Associated Press, “have given the state one of the nation’s highest rates of death by abuse and neglect ... .” The investigation was conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper looked at 2,230 reported child deaths in Georgia between January 2011 and July 2013. A little more than 20 percent of those deaths, according to authorities, were accidental. But the newspaper’s probe suggests that as many as a quarter of those deaths were caused either by adult negligence or reckless conduct.

It’s a frightening conclusion that perhaps more people should have seen coming. Consider the state’s findings from earlier this year. A report issued in May by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services found the number of child deaths in some parts of Georgia to be “unusually high.” In July, DFCS reported that reported child deaths in the first three months of 2013 were markedly higher than in the same period in 2012.

Child abuse isn’t limited to physical violence. Another sickening component is neglect – a caregiver’s failure to provide a child’s basic needs

The CSRA has seen two of the worst abuse cases in recent years. In 2010, Thomas G. Beasley got a prison sentence of more than 100 years for the prolonged beating of his two sons. And in the summer of 2008, Burke County authorities came across the Long family, a brood of 11 children who never had attended school or visited a doctor. The younger ones had never worn shoes. Their home lacked food, water and electricity.

Child abuse is everyone’s problem.

The nonprofit Foundation for Government Accountability, in its most recent Right for Kids Ranking, itemized the burden of child abuse in stark terms.

Consider the cost of hospitalization caused by abuse, and the costs of law enforcement, mental health treatment and child welfare funding. Then there’s the extra burdens on special education, juvenile delinquency and criminal justice spending for these kids when they become adults.

Tack on to all of that the lost productivity from these scarred human beings, and the monetary cost alone runs annually into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

“What is immeasurable,” the foundation said, “is the cost to the life of the abused child.”

Not only is preventing child abuse the fiscally responsible thing to do, it’s unquestionably morally right.

A complete solution certainly won’t be easy, but Dan Hillman – executive director for Augusta’s Child Enrichment Inc., and the Child Advocacy Center & Court Appointed Special Advocates – stresses the importance of adults always reporting suspected abuse. Nineteen U.S. states require by law that adults do this. Georgia and South Carolina, sadly, are not among them.

Another component is uniformity. Too many state and federal agencies keep records differently regarding child abuse. If information were reported into one universal system, the problem could be more accurately analyzed, making officials better informed to implement solutions.

If we want our society truly to cleave to the time-honored notion that our children are our future, then for heaven’s sake – for everyone’s sake – let’s start acting like it.

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Riverman1 10/23/13 - 06:43 am
Bring Back The Orphanages

I have a solution. Stop giving money to worthless mothers to raise the kids and bring back the orphanages. Orphanages could be funded cheaper than all the government money in various forms given to these parents to raise kids in unwholesome, often evil environments. Modern orphanages would provide a safe, healthy and happy upbringing while teaching moral values. Bring back the orphanages.

deestafford 10/23/13 - 06:57 am
Riverman is dead on. If one studies the history of the boys

who were raised in the Bethesda Home for Boys in Savannah they would see the result of what a carrying environment did for hundreds of young boys in developing them into productive adults.

I believe we have lost some concern for the value of life when the Supreme Court torturously found some right to privacy for a woman in the Constitution that allow her to have an abortion...murder in the eyes of most. The result being we have a President who believes a child who lives after being aborted should be left to die with no medical help to stay alive. One only has to look at the current Democratic candidate for governor of VA who has publicly said a woman should be able to have an abortion up until anytime to include the ninth month of pregnancy.

This is another example of the pandering of many to stay in power and continue to perpetuate the ability to line their pockets with money and the tapestry of power.

Gary Ross
Gary Ross 10/23/13 - 07:52 am
Such dependance on government programs and statistics

There lies the real problem. From that, parents get lazy and uncaring. It's always the innocent and defenceless that get the brunt end of the stick. And to come full circle, it's the government programs and statistics that encourage that in society.

localguy55 10/23/13 - 08:00 am
Our Government has become our

When our government accepts and pays single mothers money to have more children that they could never support, you must ask the question why would they do that? This is a form of abuse, because many times they are abused due to the situation they are in and the government enables this sort of life style. When these kids become adults they carry the scares of learned abuse, hand it down from generation to generation as they practice it in their adult lives. This is what our government has pushed upon society.

dahreese 10/23/13 - 01:12 pm
"I believe we have lost some

"I believe we have lost some concern for the value of life when the Supreme Court torturously found some right to privacy for a woman in the Constitution that allow her to have an abortion...murder in the eyes of most."

We really ought to equalize that for the sexes.

In fact, let's require a male medical license to have sex and ten years in prison if he doesn't.

And after fathering one child, let's require every man to have a vasectomy.

harley_52 10/23/13 - 01:48 pm
Orphanages Are Better...

...than the broken system we're using now. I've been saying that for years.

As long as we continue to force children to live with mothers (or foster mothers) who are mothers only because they get money for so being we are adding to and supporting the destruction of American society.

Get the kids away from the decadence, the carelessness, and the evil. Get them into Christian based (preferably) or private run orphanages paid for by donations, adoptions, and/or taxes as needed.

Riverman1 10/23/13 - 02:29 pm
Dahreese, that's a little

Dahreese, that's a little convoluted and hard to understand.

Riverman1 10/23/13 - 02:50 pm
Connie Maxwell Children's Home

I was raised in South Carolina and over the years ran into a few people who grew up in Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, originally called Connie Maxwell Orphanage, in Greenwood. I knew one of these folks very well and learned a lot about life growing up there from her. She called it Connie Max. The home is mainly supported by the Baptist Church and from funds, one of which was created by alumni. It has grown to campuses in other cities around the state. I heard my friend and others from there often talking about how much they treasured their time growing up a Connie Max. I encourage everyone to go to their website and view some of the pictures. It brought tears to my eyes and I’m sure it will to you, too. But they are good tears when you see those happy kids.

alongwalk 10/24/13 - 05:43 pm
Going backwards is not the answer

The shift away from orphanages and residential treatment programs for children and youth is, in part, the result of research that has shown this is *not* the optimal environment for children. Considerable research has shown that children need to form attachments with parent figures early in life or the consequences are long-term and pervasive. (See "From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development" for a comprehensive review of the research literature.)

The child welfare system may have it's flaws but going backwards in time and resurrecting approaches that have been found to be far from ideal is not the answer. Secure attachments in infancy and early childhood with a parent or parents has been shown to enhance brain development, improve long-term health outcomes, and increase resiliency across the lifespan.

Blaming the mothers is also counter-productive. There is research suggesting that child abuse/neglect is a multi-generational problem. Until we focus on breaking the cycle of abuse, ensuring children grow up in safe, nurturing homes with both parents (or at least have both parents actively involved in child rearing), and promoting healthy communities where children can grow and thrive, the child welfare system will be necessary to treat the consequences of societal neglect of our children.

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