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Report: Foreclosure Increases Linked to Child Abuse

PHOTO: "Bank owned" for sale sign. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: "Bank owned" for sale sign. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
August 13, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Troubles in the housing market are linked to increases in child abuse, according to a new study looking at child abuse-related hospitalizations and housing-market data from around the nation.

As the nation struggles to get out of the recession, the study authors recommend that health-care providers be aware of the link. Roger Sherman, executive director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, says housing woes can cause enormous stress.

"That's really when you start to see the rug pulled out from under families, and it's hard to be resilient when you don't have that anchor."

West Virginia's real estate market dodged the worst of the meltdown. Jim McKay, state director of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, says the state also is in a position to invest more in children and families. He says those programs have been shown to be effective for families in crisis.

"We can prevent these issues from occurring by supporting and making really modest investments in early childhood programs that support families and support children."

The report recommends that more outreach be done to make sure families experiencing housing insecurity be informed about cash assistance, food stamps and foreclosure counseling. Sherman says families facing foreclosure often feel isolated, which isn't emotionally healthy.

"Families who feel like they aren't in this alone - we're all in this together. That really is a critical aspect of how we can help our own family and help everybody else's family at the same time."

For every 1 percent increase in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, the research found a 3 percent increase in hospital admissions for physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in traumatic brain injury admissions. Ten years of data were examined.

The study, "Trends in Child Physical Abuse and The Relationship with Housing Insecurity," was published by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Research Institute. A summary study is online at policylab.us.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV