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Child Abuse Inches Up When Economy is Down

April 18, 2008

Des Moines, IA – April is "National Child Abuse Prevention Month" -- but child abuse is a problem at any time of year. In Iowa, the Department of Human Services investigated roughly 14,000 cases of abuse in 2006, the last year for which statistics are available.

Linda Spears, vice president of the Child Welfare League of America, is concerned that more cases will surface as the nation's economy wavers and parents find themselves under greater stress -- that some, inevitably, will take out on their children.

"The number of abused and neglected children has not gone down, and it's starting to creep up again. I'm concerned with the economy turning as it is, that that increase will continue to grow."

Spears notes in recent years, there has been a decline in federal funding for abuse prevention, which comes at an especially tough time, as states face budget shortfalls and a growing number of social workers report they are overwhelmed with cases.

"I think if there were greater resources we can find ways to make the workload manageable, lower the stress level for staff, and keep people doing this work."

According to Spears, the most common type of abuse is neglect, which can include a lack of medical care or schooling, or disregard for childrens' emotional needs.

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - IA