Asking the Tough Questions to Address Child Maltreatment
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Any child can experience abuse or neglect, and if these issues are not addressed, according to one expert, their health and well-being later in life will suffer.
Dr. Vincent Felitti shared his research Tuesday at the Child and Youth Behavioral Health Leadership Summit in Columbus. As author of a major study on adverse childhood experiences, Felitti said trauma can be caused by physical or emotional neglect, sexual abuse and exposure to alcoholism or depression. He said the short- and long-term outcomes of these exposures can mean a multitude of problems.
"Chronic emotional distress, chronic depression, suicidality, biomedical disease - specifically fractures, liver disease, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer - social malfunction, violence," he said.
While adverse childhood experiences can affect anyone, Felitti said, they are hallmarks of kids in the child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems. At the summit, experts and advocates examined ways to change these systems to improve the outcomes for high-risk children and young people.
Sometimes, adults have to ask the tough questions to find out what's really going on in a child's life, he said, but even professionals can have a hard time addressing trauma, because it is such a personal experience.
"All of this has attracted intense intellectual interest," he said, "but great resistance to picking it up and using it in clinical practice."
Felitti said it is possible to help a child who has faced maltreatment, but prevention provides the best outcome.
"The numerical magnitude of these problems, as well as their complexity, makes dealing with them after the fact of limited use," he said.
Efforts are under way in Ohio to better acknowledge children who have experienced trauma and connect them to recovery resources. Franklin County Children's Services is performing trauma screenings, the Department of Youth Services has community-based behavioral health services, and professionals statewide are being trained in the best responses and resources for abused and neglected children.
The study is online at cdc.gov.
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