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Ohio Expert: Not All Signs of Child Abuse Visible

PHOTO: During Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, experts are educating people about the signs of child abuse and neglect, and promoting prevention. Photo credit: SHRRC/Flickr.
PHOTO: During Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, experts are educating people about the signs of child abuse and neglect, and promoting prevention. Photo credit: SHRRC/Flickr.
April 17, 2015

CINCINNATI - Child abuse is a public-health crisis impacting Ohio children at alarming rates, experts say.

According to state data, child welfare agencies investigated 80,000 cases of suspected child abuse or neglect in 2014 and 12,000 were substantiated.

Prevention is critical, said Dr. Robert Shapiro, director of the Mayerson Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, because children who are abused can face emotional, psychological and physical problems that last a lifetime. Not all signs of abuse are visible, he said.

"That child may have behavior changes, change in school performance, avoidance of being with adults, sexually promiscuous behaviors, regression of development," he said.

The Mayerson Center evaluates and treats victims of abuse and works with children, parents and the community to prevent child abuse from happening. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Child abuse and neglect happens in all socio-economic groups, although Shapiro said poverty, mental illness and unemployment all increase the likelihood of a child being abused. The lifetime costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment are extensive, he said.

"It's $124 billion to society," he said, "and this takes into costs of criminal justice system, child welfare system, special-education costs, health care costs and productivity loss."

Shapiro said communities pay a vital role in preventing child abuse, and that includes ensuring that all children are raised in safe, stable and nurturing environments.

"A family who doesn't have enough to eat or doesn't have a safe place to live really has to struggle to provide those basic needs for their children," he said. "It's a stressful environment and these are the times when children are more apt to be abused and neglected."

Shapiro said nearly five children in the United States die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH