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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Concerns about AZ Kids' Safety

April 20, 2011

PHOENIX - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Arizonans on the front lines fighting the problem are concerned about child safety in light of recent state budget cuts.

Experts predicted the economic downturn would prompt an increase in child-abuse cases, and Cindy Scott, executive director of the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, has seen caseloads surge. At the same time, she notes that funding is being cut at the county, state and federal levels - all of which has her concerned for 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."

According to the most recent Kids Count data, Arizona had more than 33,000 reports of child abuse or neglect statewide in 2009. Nationwide, more than 12,000 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008. Scott is among those urging Congress to hold national hearings on child abuse and provide emergency funding for states that are now running short.

Miriam Rollin, director of the national organization Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, says the administration and Congress have managed to maintain critical support for measures such as 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."

Rollin's organization includes more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors, including more than 50 members in Arizona.

Rollin says states have an opportunity with $1.5 billion in federal money set aside to fund Home Visiting Programs for the next five years. Arizona is eligible for a portion of these funds.

"We know it works. We know it saves more money than it costs down the road. It's been shown how 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.

More information about child abuse and neglect in Arizona is online at fightcrime.org/state/arizona.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ