SAN ANTONIO, TX – In the past five years, confirmed cases of child abuse in Bexar County are down 28%.
The new finding comes from a report that will be released Tuesday by the Bexar County Health Collaborative on the state of health care in our area.
In addition to child abuse data, the report will include new numbers for problems like obesity and mental health. It will be the document elected leaders will refer to when making new policies.
The fact that confirmed cases of child abuse are down proves new initiatives are working, but child advocates point out some children are still suffering in silence.
“It’s in the west side, the south side, the north side, the east side. It’s all over,” grandmother Delia Martinez says.
Thousands of children are living in dangerous households. Martinez and her colleague Mercedes Bristol both took in their grandchildren after the situations were reported.
“CPS got involved in neglect and abuse,” Bristol says.
The women now run the support group Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
“You look at their faces. You see the despair, the hopelessness, the fear,” Martinez says.
The Health Collaborative’s new report offers encouraging news, but child advocates caution we can’t let our guards down: the statistics only include cases that have been reported.
“There’s a large percentage of families that are going out there unserved, unrecognized, undocumented that this data doesn’t show,” the nonprofit’s director Elizabeth Lutz says.
Here’s what the data does show: child advocates are doing a better job working together, but more funding is needed to raise awareness.
“People are making a bigger effort in the nonprofit community to get the message out there – being sure that you report it,” Randy McGibeny with ChildSafe says. “It doesn’t matter who you report to. Just make the report if you suspect that there’s child abuse.”
Meanwhile, grandparents are using grassroots efforts to get the community involved.
“We’re knocking on doors. We’re talking to people,” Martinez says. “Trying to get the different companies, organizations, nonprofits and everybody else we can think of to look at the problem and start working with us.”
As SC Child Abuse, Neglect increases,
officials wonder why
COLUMBIA, SC – Six-month-old Mason had a big smile that showed in his photo.
But in July 2015, his parents took the Laurens County boy to a hospital with severe head injuries. He was placed on life support but died the next day.
Authorities said his father had admitted to abusing the infant and he was charged with homicide by child abuse. The mother was charged with unlawful neglect of a child. The father eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, court records show. The mother pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days time served.
Mason’s death was among the more horrific examples of a pervasive problem in South Carolina that appeared to spike dramatically in 2015.
Despite millions more dollars being spent in recent years on the state’s child welfare agency and the hiring of hundreds of workers to combat child abuse and neglect, records reviewed by The Greenville News show complaints and investigations of abuse and neglect have been on a steady march upward.
According to the state Department of Social Services, the number of complaints of child abuse and neglect received by the agency went from 27,370 in 2012 to 30,950 in 2014 and 40,463 in 2015.
The number of investigations in child abuse and neglect, meanwhile, jumped from 13,218 in 2012 to 16,501 in 2014 and 23,347 last year.
During the past fiscal year, more investigations of physical abuse, 371, and sexual abuse, 47, were founded in Greenville County than any other county of the state, according to DSS. Greenville County was second only to Charleston last year in the number of founded cases of neglect. More complaints of abuse and neglect originated in Greenville County, 3,751, than any other county in the state.
“We have a serious problem,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Lexington Republican who sits on a Senate committee with oversight of DSS.
The oversight panel has spent the past three years delving into the issue of child abuse and neglect and how the agency has handled such complaints. In a series of sometimes dramatic public hearings, senators heard testimony of children who were abused and died, of overworked caseworkers and severe staff turnover rates. A scathing report by the Legislative Audit Council in October 2014 found that thousands of the state’s children were victims of abuse or neglect and some even died after DSS chose to refer their cases to community prevention programs instead of investigating them.
Since then, a new director of the agency has been at work making changes, the system for receiving child abuse and neglect allegations has been centralized in some parts of the state to include a toll-free number, and hundreds of caseworkers have been hired in an effort to reduce caseloads to a new standard.
DSS Director Susan Alford told senators last year that the spike then in investigations was largely the result of the partial installment of the new reporting system, called intake hubs, a regional system for receiving calls and reports of abuse and neglect. She told The News much the same in a statement issued Friday:
“From our review of the data, what we know is that implementation of intake hubs is producing what we want—an increase in calls received, and an increase in our screening of reports of abuse and neglect,” she said. “We don’t want to miss a report. What we have to be careful of is maintaining our staffing levels to support that increase—we need to assure we have adequate numbers of highly trained intake workers, to do timely and effective screening of incoming calls, and we need to retain enough caseworkers to manage increased caseloads. “
But what is causing the underlying problem of abuse and neglect?
DSS data offers some clues as to the exact nature of the problem. The biggest single type of investigation is neglect and risk of neglect, followed by physical abuse and risk of physical abuse, according to the data. Other types include sexual abuse, educational neglect, medical neglect and abandonment.
Among the reasons for children entering foster care last year, according to the agency, neglect was by far the most common, followed by physical abuse. Other major reasons included sexual abuse, family instability, and parental drug abuse. Greenville County foster care cases in which neglect was a reason ranked third in the state, behind those in Spartanburg and Richland counties.
Sue Williams, executive director of the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, an organization which focuses on child abuse and neglect prevention, said it is possible that with the new DSS reporting system that more cases are being found than ever before.
“Maybe it’s closer to the real number, which is a good thing that we are finding these kids and their families,” she said. “But then how do we get it where we’re not always reacting? How do we help a community help a family and support them with what they need so it doesn’t escalate to a report and a child that has been traumatized?”
Across the nation, she said, the levels of abuse in states are consistent. But in South Carolina, there have been dips and spikes, most recently spikes.
“I think the primary question is, if this is the true rate of abuse and neglect, what are the ways we can decrease these rates because we prevented them from happening, not just because we are missing them?” Williams asked.
A myriad of factors can contribute to abuse and neglect in South Carolina, experts say, not the least of which is poverty.
“We have a lot of people who are under-employed, who are struggling to make ends meet,” Williams said. “Tensions are high and they are trying to meet basic needs for their family. Neglect accounts for way more kids coming into the system and a lot of that can be related to the effects of poverty.”
According to the latest Kids Count profile for South Carolina, a look at some of the factors most affecting children, 27 percent of children in the state were in poverty in 2014, up from 22 percent in 2008. A third of children in the state have parents who lack secure employment. Only four other states have a higher percentage of children in poverty.
“This is a fundamental question: Are we saying these parents are maltreating their kids because they are poor?” Williams asked. “Sometimes you go and there’s holes in the floor because there’s no money to fix them.”
Research, she said, has shown that abuse covers all demographics. But there are factors which can help protect children.
Those include concrete support, such as food, clothing and shelter. “If you don’t have the basic needs met, then you’re always living in a sort of tension about how to pay the next bill, when the next meal is going to happen,” she said. “Kids go home Friday and they don’t eat until Monday.”
Other factors, she said, include social connections, support for families so they know they are not alone; knowledge of child development by parents; and parental resilience, being able to pick yourself up after a setback or problem.
“Each one of those has to be in place,” she said. “What that tells us is, if we’re having a spike, maybe those things in the community aren’t there.”
Laura Hudson, a longtime victims’ advocate who also serves on the state’s child fatality review committee, said she is at a loss to explain why abuse or neglect remains so pervasive.
About 600-800 children in the state, 17 and under, die each year from all causes, she said. Of that number, about 160-200 deaths are referred to the State Law Enforcement Division for an additional look because the deaths are violent, suspicious or from an undetermined cause, she said.
DSS annually reports the number of children who die in abuse or neglect situations it has investigated. That number was 14 in 2012, 24 in 2013, and 22 in 2014, according to the agency, which is still reviewing data for 2015.
Hudson said she is pleased there is more reporting to DSS of child abuse and neglect cases.
“I can’t answer why we have so many cases,” she said.
She said there has been an increase in the number of child deaths reported to SLED and the number of deaths in which DSS was involved in some way with the family.
She said economics and the lack of a “traditional home with two loving parents” could be factors.
In South Carolina, 43 percent of children in 2014 lived in single-parent families, the third-highest percentage in the nation, according to this year’s Kids Count report.
Shealy thinks both poverty and a lack of education play a role in abuse and neglect cases.
“But when you look at where some of the deaths are happening, those aren’t necessarily poverty areas,” she said. “Lexington County has an issue. We’re not a poverty area of this state. Aiken County has a problem. Spartanburg. Those are three areas that I am concerned about right now.”
She said in other areas, she is concerned incidents are not properly reported. She said she also is convinced some of the abuse is generational.
DSS officials believe the increase reports will eventually level out, much as they have in some other states that introduced the centralized reporting system. But they also expect more increases as they expand the new system to the entire state, which is one reason they asked for more workers in the current budget.
Williams said her organization is focused on ways to reduce the problem.
It helps fund prevention programs throughout the state, including those aimed at strengthening families and providing home visitation to new families.
Children’s Trust also has been analyzing data from a survey of adults in the state on adverse childhood experiences. National research has found such traumatic experiences can increase the adult risk of substance use and abuse, depression, unintended pregnancies, obesity, heart disease and missed work days. For children, recurrent experience of or exposure to ACEs can also significantly impact the brain development, according to Children’s Trust.
They also offer an indicator of abuse in the population.
According to the weighted survey, 15 percent of adults reported being victims of household physical abuse as a child, 13 percent reported being victims of some type of sexual abuse and 30 percent reported emotional abuse, defined as receiving an insult, put down or being cursed by a parent or adult in the home. According to the survey, 29 percent reported household substance abuse and 20 percent reported domestic violence.
Nationally, a higher percentage of adults reported instances of physical abuse but far lower percentages of emotional abuse, said Melissa Strompolis, director of research for Children’s Trust.
She said the data is valuable for preventing abuse and neglect because many of the issues are related.
“We know there’s likely to be other issues, such as substance abuse or mental illness or domestic violence or incarceration,” she said. “So for us we really wanted to take an approach in which we can prevent child abuse and neglect but we can also find a way to bring in our other partners so we can collectively increase child and family well-being.”
Children’s Trust plans a summit later this year on the data to help communities develop their own plans of action to reduce adverse childhood experiences in their communities.
There have been some bright spots, officials say, in the battle against abuse and neglect.
The overall Kids Count ranking for South Carolina this year moved to its highest mark yet, 41st, with improvements especially in health, including a lower rate of child deaths. DSS has reported a number of improvements, including lower caseloads, reduced turnover and more caseworkers.
Williams said progress in the state is slow and will take a long time.
Sen. Tom Young, an Aiken Republican and chairman of the DSS oversight committee, said he believes the primary issue behind abuse and neglect is generational poverty.
“The states that annually rank high in that report from Kids Count are states that have an educated work force, more students graduating from high school on time and higher paying jobs than South Carolina,” he said. “Many problems we face in the state in this area are the result of generational poverty. The big picture is that improving the overall educational attainment of our state’s citizens is critical to address issues related to abuse and neglect but also other problems that stem from generational poverty in South Carolina.”
Research Pinpoints Highest Risk Areas For
Child Abuse In Dallas
DALLAS, TX – New research obtained exclusively by CBS11 News pinpoints the Dallas zip codes where children are most often abused in the city.
“We know that child abuse is becoming drastically worse in Texas and the system is broken right now,” said Ashley Brundage with United Way Of Metropolitan Dallas.
An alarming three children a week in Texas are dying from abuse, according to experts.
CBS11 spoke to a 20-year-old mother who lives in the West Dallas 75211 zip code where statistics show more children are victims of abuse than anywhere else in the city.
“If they are inhuman enough to hurt you, what’s to say they won’t hurt your children,” said Brandi Williams, who just left an abusive relationship.
High risk zip codes like Williams’ are the focus of the new prevention program called Dallas HOPES. With abuse cases increasing at a frightening rate, according to child welfare groups, the program is long overdue. The program is funded by a $3 ½ million grant and will hopefully help parents like Williams and her children with voluntary home visits and support programs.
The HOPES grant, the largest ever received by United Way, will develop and implement systems-level, county-wide efforts aimed at increasing community awareness and outreach, coordinating and aligning child abuse and abuse service providers, and ensuring health care providers are trained to identify early signs of maltreatment.
“It’s the biggest grant we’ve ever gotten,” said Brundage. “I think it will make some kind of difference.”
Child abuse and neglect in Michigan at
HALF OF THE CHILDREN ARE AT OR BELOW POVERTY LEVEL!!!!
The number of abused and neglected children in Michigan has risen to its highest level in more than 25 years.
Across the state, 34,777 children were confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect in the 12 months starting in October 2014, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The number of children victimized equates to a rate of 15.6 per 1,000 children statewide, the highest rate Michigan has seen since 1990, according to data reported by the Michigan League for Public Policy.
Eight counties have rates of child abuse and neglect that are at least twice as high as the state rate. Michigan had the lowest rate in 1993 when 7.7 out of 1,000 children statewide were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect. In the 12 months starting in October 2014, the state investigated homes of 247,742 children reported to be abused or neglected.
Local Expert Blames Rise Of Drug Use
The long arm of the CPS AGENDA is all too obvious in this “news article”, every person with half a brain knows there are NO JOBS in Our Country, and manufacturing jobs are the basis of Our economy and the key to people having folding money in their pockets. The truly funny part of this “news article” is the fact that you haven’t got to take my word for it, because down in the re-cap, an annual survey is listed under “At a glance”: Rate for public assistance and financial problems is much higher in Indiana than the national average. Robert StrongBow
She wore a tank top, which made the needle marks on the inside of her right elbow clear as day in the light of the summer afternoon.
The police officer who responded to the crash, a fender bender at the Interstate 69 exit along West Jefferson Boulevard, could also see scab marks along the then 28-year-old woman’s chest and arms. She admitted she rear-ended another car while trying to turn left onto Jefferson, but she did so with a slurred, “thick tongued and mumbled” speech, the officer later wrote.
Affixed to a diaper bag in the car the officer found a bottle of Adderall and amphetamine pills – both of which are illegal to possess if, like the woman, one does not have a prescription. Also inside her car and luckily unhurt in the crash: the woman’s 23-month-old daughter.
Allen County prosecutors formally charged the woman last week with felony counts of neglect of a dependent, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of narcotics. This case is like many others permeating the state the last few years and causing alarm among officials in social services: Parents abusing drugs and in turn abusing their children – or at the very least putting them in danger.
A new report released today called Kids Count calculated that Indiana ranks fifth in the country when it comes to kids being abused or neglected for the first time in the past year, with 9 out of 10 being first-time victims.
And data in the report found that 13.4 percent of children reported living with a parent who had a problem with alcohol or drugs, well above the national average of 10 percent.
Many officials see a direct correlation between the rise of prescription pill abuse, and now heroin, with a rise in the number of abuse and neglect cases social workers have been handling throughout the state.
“It’s the drugs,” said Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director of SCAN Inc., northeast Indiana’s child abuse prevention agency. “The drugs are making children vulnerable.”
Drugs like heroin, which comes cheap and is in many ways easier to get because of a crackdown on prescription pills, have wreaked havoc in nearly every aspect of life, health and police officials have said for the past few years.
That includes the welfare of children.
Tobin-Smith’s organization dealt with more than 840 families last year in which substance abuse was an issue, and time and time again she would run into stories about what a parent consumed by heroin turns into: someone who forgets to change diapers or take their children to school, or even clean the child.
“You might spend all your money on drugs,” she said. “And then there is no money for food or clothing.”
And there are other extremes when it comes to drugs.
A Huntington mother is accused of letting her baby suck heroin off her finger last year.
A Marion man is serving a long prison term for killing his Bluffton girlfriend’s child while the couple was in the midst of a drug binge last winter. The mother is also in jail awaiting trial on neglect of a dependent charges, among other counts related to her drug use.
Reports of child abuse are also up across the state, even here in Allen County.
According to Indiana Department of Child Services records, Allen typically received about 600 reports of abuse or neglect to investigate in any given month during 2014. During the last six months of 2015, the number of abuse or neglect reports spiked, sometimes topping 800 a month.
Statewide, reports of abuse or neglect at times topped out at more than 16,000.
The situation with drugs became so alarming to state officials that Gov. Mike Pence authorized the hiring of 113 extra case workers for the state Department of Child Services this year. All of those positions have now been filled as calls to the child services hotline continue to grow.
And while heroin is possibly the new drug du jour, people might be abusing in this area, it’s still not necessarily the only one statewide.
“There has definitely been an increase in the number of cases that have drug involvement,” James B. Wide, spokesman for the Department of Child Services, said in an email. “However, we cannot just [attribute] that increase to heroin, as it really depends on geography. Some areas of the state have a bigger issue with cocaine, some meth, some prescription, and some heroin.”
Despite the new hires across the state, Tobin-Smith said there is always a need for more social workers.
“We can’t find enough people qualified to do the job,” she said, adding that to do such work requires a lot of education, plus time in the field as well as licensing. “(The drug problem) is stretching our resources.”
But she said there is a tinge of hope.
Several years ago it was methamphetamine the state was trying to tackle. It took time to get a handle on the problem, which, yes, still exists, but measures were taken as officials began to see and understand the scope of what was happening.
Heroin, while it’s been out there, is still relatively new.
It will take the community coming together, Tobin-Smith said, plus money for drug treatment programs and other programs to get people the help they need, but they’ve done this before.
“We’re beginning to wrap our heads around it,” she said.
At a glance
Kids Count, a survey released today, takes an annual snapshot of the health of children statewide, factoring in a number of health-related issues. One is child abuse and neglect, and the following are highlights from the survey.
Indiana has the fifth highest rate nationally of children being abused or neglected for the first time in the past year (10 out of every 1,000 children in Indiana compared with 7 per 1,000 in the United States).
In Indiana, 9 out of 10 victims of abuse and neglect were first-time victims.
More than 90 percent of those kids didn’t have another incident reported within 6 months of the initial incident.
In 2014, there was a substantiated case of abuse or neglect every 20 minutes in Indiana.
For every 1,000 Hoosier kids, 16 were victims of abuse or neglect.
Nearly half of those are children 5 years old or younger.
In state fiscal year 2013, 49 Hoosier children died from maltreatment, compared with 34 in 2012.
Only seven of the 2013 deaths had prior contact with the Department of Child Services.
Of the 2013 deaths, 14 were due to abuse and 35 were due to neglect.
In 2013, more than 1 in 5 Indiana children who were maltreated had a disability.
The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline handled nearly 200,000 reports – an average of about one report every two-and-a-half minutes in 2014.
Average caller spends slightly more than 12 minutes speaking with an intake specialist.
Top risk factors for maltreatment in Indiana: if the caregiver is receiving public assistance, has financial problems or has a history of domestic violence. Rate for public assistance and financial problems is much higher in Indiana than the national average.
Insufficient income and unemployment were risk factors in 98 percent of maltreatment deaths, substance abuse in 43 percent of maltreatment fatalities and domestic violence in 47 percent of abuse fatalities.
Indiana Child Services Hotline
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Indiana’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline today. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Reports can be made anonymously. 1-800-800-5556