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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Concerns about NY Kids' Safety

April 12, 2011

NEW YORK - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and those on the front lines fighting the problem in New York are concerned about children's safety in light of recent budget cuts. Experts predicted the economic downturn would prompt an increase in child-abuse cases, and Cindy Scott, the executive director of the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, says that is the case on Long Island. The number of child-abuse cases there jumped from almost 13,000 to nearly 17,000 in one year.

Even as caseloads surge, funding is being cut at the county, state and federal levels, all of which has Scott concerned about local children.

"I think we need to worry about their safety, quite frankly. And we also need to worry about their ability to heal once they are recognized as victims, because services that were there, aren't there; they're just not there."

Scott is among those urging Congress to hold national hearings on child abuse, and to provide emergency funding for states that are now running short.

Miriam Rollin, national director of the organization Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, says there is an opportunity for states to take action, with the $1.5 billion in federal funds set aside to fund Home Visiting Programs for the next five years. There's a catch, though: states have to keep their funding at current levels, to get the federal match.

She says New York just made the cut.

"We know it works; we know it saves more money than it costs down the road. It's been shown to have these amazing results of cutting child abuse substantially, cutting later delinquency substantially."

In Home Visiting Programs, nurses and social workers keep in contact with poor and at-risk families to offer support and skills to prevent abuse and neglect.

Rollins says President Obama and Congress have managed to provide critical support for measures like the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

"That provides very important funding for a variety of things, including helping to support Child Protective Services around the country. So, for instance, when abuse and neglect happens, it has to be investigated by someone."

Nationwide, more than 12,000 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008.

More information is at www.everychildmatters.org

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY