Michigan Seeing Spike In Child Abuse

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
Child Abuse increasing

Livingston County Child Abuse cases
spike 73%

Child poverty and abuse rates continue to climb, wreaking havoc in Livingston County.

According to the 2016 Kids Count in Michigan report released today, the number of child abuse and neglect victims in Livingston County soared 65% from 226 in 2006 to 374 in 2014.  The number of children living in poverty in the county jumped 35% from 2,532 in 2006 to 3,423 in 2014.

“I think the main concern here is:  What is going on in Livingston County that makes this negative trend continue to increase?” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Michigan League for Public Policy Kids Count project director.  “In order for Livingston County to truly improve, these are areas of focus.”

The Kids Count report is a broad national effort to measure the well-being of children at the state and local levels by analyzing 16 key indicators across economic security, health and safety, family and community, and education.  This year’s annual report shows Livingston County indicators are moving in the wrong direction.

Overall, Livingston County is ranked first for child well-being in the state for the second year in a row, but “they are still nowhere they should be,” Guevara Warren said.

Between 2006 and 2014, there was a “150% increase of the rate” of Livingston County children living in a foster home or a relative’s home, according to the report.

Child poverty also went up in 80 of 83 Michigan counties since 2006.

While the county’s child poverty rate is still the best in Michigan at 8.1%, it is still a 42% rate increase from nine years ago, according to the report.

“Livingston has a pretty low poverty rate, and neglect has a lot to do with poverty … so it’s a little surprising,” Guevara Warren said.  “It makes me wonder what is going on there.”

Bobette Schrandt, CEO and president of LACASA, stressed that socio-economic status plays no part in child abuse and neglect cases. LACASA is the county’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse prevention agency.

“Of course when someone lives in poverty, it’s an added stress that can contribute to child abuse and neglect.  But it still happens at all economic status levels,” Schrandt said.  “You might see more neglect rather than abuse for children in a higher socio-economic status, but it’s still there.”

Cause for rise uncertain

The rate of child abuse and neglect also rose 29% statewide, with a rate of 15 kids per 1,000 in 2014.  Livingston County had a rate of child abuse and neglect of roughly nine kids per 1,000, according to the report.

Schrandt said that LACASA easily doubles in child abuse and neglect cases each year.

However, it’s hard for her to determine why.

“It goes back to the ‘Which was first, the chicken or the egg’ question,” Schrandt said.  “We have really done a great job at educating and informing the community about our programs and services, so we don’t know if the number of cases have risen because more are happening or if they are just becoming aware of our services and now reporting them.”

LACASA conducted 174 forensic child interviews in 2012, 213 in 2013, 148 in 2014 and around 214 in 2015.

“We started around 140 and then 170 and now up to the 200s,” Schrandt said, noting sometimes they have up to three child cases a day.  “It’s a consistent, substantial amount.”

What LACASA saw in 2015

  • 249 children received clinical services.
  • 76 adults and children received in-home services due to an abuse case.
  • 17 children received trauma assessments.
  • 63 kids were removed from homes due to abuse or neglect.

“When I first started here, we had around 2,000 people (each year) stay in our shelter at night; now we have up to 5,000,” Schrandt said. “I hope in the next 10 years we see a more consistent number across the board. … It’s sad.”

Regardless of the reason, Schrandt is happy people are coming forward instead of hiding in the dark.

Home life impacts class life

The report also indicates that education and teen birth rates were the only positive improvements Livingston County has seen since 2013.

However, even though Livingston County saw a slight increase in the education category doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

“What goes on at home plays a big part on what goes on in the classroom, so we need to see improvement across the board,” Guevara Warren said.  “It’s not just education.”

Livingston County was ranked seventh statewide for having the most 3 and 4-year-olds in preschool, and it ranked fifth statewide for students not graduating on time.

Because last year was the first year for students to take the new Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (MSTEP), Guevara Warren said there isn’t any data to compare yet.

However, Livingston County ranked seventh for third-grade English language arts scores on the MSTEP, ranked ninth for the eighth-grade math MSTEP scores and ranked 15th for the 11th-grade English language arts MSTEP scores.

“Just keep in mind that there is still a chunk of students who weren’t proficient on this test,” Guevara Warren said.  “But overall, Livingston County is slightly improving, and it’s important to show people what is going on in order for change to occur.”

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