If you have not experienced it, witnessed it, lived with it, been related to it, known a victim/survivor—you must live on the moon. I’m not overstating—child abuse is pandemic.
Nationwide, in 2012, an estimated 3.4 million referrals were made to Child Protective agencies. Of those referrals, over 60 percent were screened in for further investigation, and approximately 20 percent of the investigations resulted in a finding that a child was abused or neglected. That’s over 400,000 children by my math.
And one child is too many.
Of those numbers, children ages birth to one year had the highest rate of victimization. The gender split of victims is around 50/50. Neglect was the most common form (over 75 percent) of mistreatment; then physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse. Presumably the last is difficult to quantify and likely overlapping with the other three. More than 80 percent of those perpetrating these crimes against children are the parents.
While neglect may seem somehow of lesser concern, it may be a precursor to something more serious. Of the 2012 nationwide fatality statistics (1,640), nearly 70 percent were a result of neglect or a combination of other mistreatment and neglect. Thus, warning signs of neglect should not be taken lightly.
Based on cases my organization has worked on in Washington, CPS sometimes gets it wrong. Sometimes caseworkers get jaded about their work (don’t we all). Sometimes the law has been misapplied or misinterpreted. Sometimes serious mistakes are made. However, for every case we have worked on where CPS may have made a mistake or been wrong, there are many more cases where CPS properly intervened and saved children from harm or possibly death.
To its credit, CPS has also recognized that not all cases should be treated in the same manner. CPS has been rolling out a pilot project, including here in Aberdeen, called Family Assessment Response (FAR). Instead of being referred to investigation that may result in a finding of neglect or abuse (which can become permanent on one’s record), in low-to-moderate risk cases, CPS explores alternative interventions with the family to see if the situation can be improved.
If you are aware of a child being abused, please report it to the proper authorities. If you are a victim of child abuse or know someone who is, listed below are very good local resources:
Children’s Advocacy Center / (800) 959-1467 / (360) 249-0005 / http://www.cacgh.org/
Beyond Survival / (360) 533-9751 / (888) 626-2640 / http://www.ghbeyondsurvival.com/
Domestic Violence Center of Grays Harbor / (800) 818-2194 / (360) 538-0733 (Facebook)
Crisis Support Network in Pacific County / (800) 435-7276 / www.crisis-support.org
Other Useful Information &Stats:
National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence
To find out if you are eligible for Northwest Justice Project services:
For cases including youth (Individualized Education Program and school discipline issues), debt collection cases and tenant evictions, please call for a local intake appointment at (360) 533-2282 or toll free (866) 402-5293. No walk-ins, please.
For all other legal issues, please call our toll-free intake and referral hotline commonly known as “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) at 1-888-201-1014, Mondays through Fridays 9:10 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. If you are a senior, 60 and over, please call 1-888-387-7111; you may be eligible regardless of income. Language interpreters are available. You can also complete an application for services at nwjustice.org/get-legal-help. Be sure to also check out our law library at: www.washingtonlawhelp.org.
Sarah Glorian is the senior attorney for the Aberdeen office of the Northwest Justice Project, a private, non-profit legal aid organization providing free representation to low-income residents in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.