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DCF: More Florida Parents Taking Their Money Troubles Out On Kids

June 22, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. - The economy is being blamed for a rise in Florida child abuse, and with it a rise in bullying. The state Department of Children and Families says there's also an increase in the severity of the cases, with 59 deaths so far this year being investigated as possible child abuse.

Paul D'Agostino, executive director of the Child Abuse Council, says tough times may trigger parents struggling with anger issues to abuse their children - and these abused children, in turn, often bully others.

"Children are being taught that 'might makes right,' that striking out is a way of handling your own anger, of handling your own frustration. Increased bullying is an example of that."

He says the problem could increase over the summer months because funds for children's summer camps have been cut, leaving families no time out from the stress. He says counselors work with parents to reduce stress, identify anger's triggers and learn new ways to cope without hurting their children.

D'Agostino says more than 90 percent of abusive parents were abused as children, creating what he calls the "cycle of violence." He says living in an abusive home deprives children of the nurturing they need, teaches them poor anger management skills, and hurts both their self-esteem and their schoolwork.

"Violence always has an impact on children. It's very frightening for children when they do not feel safe in the very relationship in which they should be the safest, and that's in their home and with their parents."

D'Agostino says the problem could increase over the summer months because funds for children's summer camps have been cut, leaving families no time out from stress. He says the recession has meant fewer counseling resources at a time when families need it the most. Still, he says, everyone can help by being supportive and encouraging of all children.

"You do not know what is going on in that child's life, and sometimes you can be the person who offsets that child's negative concept of themselves."

D'Agostino says this can make a difference in a child's life, a difference that breaks the cycle of violence.


Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL