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Child Abuse Inches Up When Economy is Down

April 18, 2008

Bismarck, ND – April is "National Child Abuse Prevention Month," but advocates say it's a year-round battle, and prevention is even more important now that the U.S. economy is faltering.

In North Dakota, the state investigated about 1,500 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 will surface in the coming months, as parents face job and financial stresses that some will take out on their children.

"The numbers of abused and neglected children have 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."

In recent years, Spears explains, there has been a decline in federal funding for abuse prevention; and the cuts come at a time when many states already face budget crises. A growing number of social workers report their own, higher stress levels, she adds, as they are overwhelmed with cases.

"I think if there were greater resources, we can find ways to make the workload manageable, lower the stress levels 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 education, or disregarding children's emotional needs.

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - ND