In 2009, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported statistics from 2007, in which there was an estimated 1,760 child fatalities resulting from abuse or neglect. That amounts to approximately 2 children dying from preventable causes every single day.
This translates to a rate of 2.35 children per 100,000 children in the general population. With the exception of 2005, the number and rate of fatalities have increased over 5 years.
Children under the age of 3 are the children most often killed, with children under 1 being over 42%. Although often the fatality results from abuse or neglect to the child, including shaken baby syndrome, sometimes it is due to the caretaker’s failure to act. This report notes that almost 70% of the time the abuse ending in fatality is by one or both parents.
I used to be a part of a review board in Michigan that researched child fatalities in foster care, why they happened and how to keep them from happening. It is not widely known, but there are child fatality review boards in every state. There is nothing more heart breaking than reading the horror stories of these children, many of whom never even had a chance to learn how to talk, much less protect themselves from their caregivers.
The subject is talked about, but for how long? PBS did a special report on this subject, where I was invited to be a guest on the panel. But what came from this? Was there suddenly an outpouring of enraged citizens learning and studying more and standing up for abused or neglected children everywhere? Or was it simply something sad and interesting to watch on television to pass the time?
The most difficult thing is that there are no real answers to be found. How can our country stop child fatalities from abuse or neglect?
In the review boards I’ve participated on, the answers are consistent: More education, more programs, more pamphlets, more videos, more… state involvement. The state and government step in when the community cannot or will not.
If you know of someone that is a bad parent, you have to draw up the courage to step between them and that child, sometimes physically. You should not be afraid to call other family members, friends of the family, or even the police for help if necessary or if you suspect major abuse or neglect is going on. As an adult, you are capable of protecting a child whereas the child is not.
Even just one child dying from abuse or neglect is shameful for us as a nation. The fact that the fatality rates have increased is an awful statement. Uncle Sam’s children deserve better. They deserve the chance at a quality life.