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The Economic Downturn’s Hidden Cost - Child Abuse

November 19, 2008

Jefferson City, MO - Children's advocates say the hidden toll of the economic crisis could be playing out behind closed doors with Missouri's smallest citizens. The Department of Social Services reports there is a direct correlation between difficult economic times and child abuse.

And these desperate economic situations are forcing a growing number of working parents to make tough decisions, like sacrificing quality child care to save money. Advocates are concerned that as parents take on greater financial stress, some will take it out on their children.

Judy Langford at the Center for the Study of Social Policy is a partner with the "Strengthening Families Initiative." She says parents need to reach out to their social connections for support.

"That helps you feel like you're not by yourself and they will in turn give you some support that helps minimize the kind of the issues that come out because of stress."

Langford says parents can provide a loving environment during this time of crisis by simply paying attention to their children's development, which doesn't cost a thing.

"It helps to really understand a little more deeply what's going on with your children and what you can do to help facilitate their development. Parents are so much more important than child care programs, actually, in making sure that kids get what they need."

In Missouri, child abuse was up 16 percent during the last economic downturn. Policymakers are currently implementing the "Strengthening Families Initiative" at child care centers statewide, where providers are currently being trained on building protective factors in families. Langford says these include common-sense tactics like teaching parents techniques for coping with the stress of parenting, especially during tough times.

For more information, contact Kate Stepleton, "Strengthening Families Initiative" at 314-323-6499, or log onto
www.strengtheningfamilies.net

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO