An Inside Look at Reporting Abuse

Emergency vehicles appeared again this week at the door of a family we know. It’s such a common occurrence that the family greets the firemen by first names.  After hearing about the latest event, I was sorely tempted to call the state of Georgia’s office of child protective services to check out what actually goes on behind closed doors.  Maybe they’ll find concerns, but maybe not. There are a couple of reasons why I hesitate. First, I was a foster parent for more than two years for some girls that had been involved in an abuse/neglect case.

House Committee Approves Stronger Penalties for Sex Offenses Against Minors

WASHINGTON – Despite pointed criticism from some lawmakers, the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a bipartisan bill that pushes for harsher penalties for people convicted of sex offenses against minors under 12 and authorizes millions of dollars to fight Internet crimes against children. Sponsored by committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063) calls for $60 million a year until 2018 for task forces working to investigate Internet crimes against children. It also reinforces the need for the U.S. Justice Department to appoint a senior official as a national coordinator for child exploitation prevention and interdiction, a position first created by the PROTECT Our Children Act by Congress in 2008. In addition, the bill widens protections for child witnesses who may be subject to intimidation or harassment, doubles to $4 million the cap on funds available to train Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, and gives U.S. Marshals the power to issue administrative subpoenas to investigate unregistered sex offenders. Smith introduced similar legislation last year but it did not reach the full House floor for a vote.

CASA Volunteers Give Children a Voice

During the Texas girl’s checkup at the local clinic, the doctor was surprised by what he found. Brittany* had a sexually transmitted disease. She was three. Quickly after that, into Brittany’s life came a host of police officers, some child abuse investigators, a judge, and a public defender. Luckily someone else came along at the same time.

New Report Shows the Crippling Cost of Child Abuse

This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report quantifying the costs of child maltreatment in the United States. The report underscores that child maltreatment is a serious public health issue with financial impacts comparable to a stroke and Type 2 diabetes. What the report does not quantify is the loss of a child’s innocence. What is the price of the smile on a baby’s face when he takes his first steps, or on the 8-year-old who scores her first goal, or on the 12-year-old who wins his class spelling bee? What about the joy and love brought into the lives of family and friends by that child?

New Report Uncovers “Alarming” Rate of Child Hospitalization Due to Abuse

The March 2012 issue of Pediatrics will contain the first quantified findings detailing the hospitalization rates of children due to serious physical abuse in the United States. The report, released by the Yale School of Medicine, uncovered 4,569 instances of children being hospitalized due to serious abuse in 2006, with approximately 300 cases in which the children died as a result of serious injuries. According to the findings, children were at their highest likelihood for serious injury within the first 12 months of life, with a projected 58.2 per 100,000 children within the age group being hospitalized for abuse. Researchers at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital used data from the Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID) to estimate the number of incidences in which children younger than 18-years-old were hospitalized due to serious physical abuse in 2006. The Kids’ Inpatient Database was prepared by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, under the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

New Mexico Governor Seeking Harsher Sentences For Child Abusers and Predators

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced several legislative proposals last month, which aim to alter the state’s Criminal Code in order to extend sentences for child abusers and predators. The legislation would triple jail time for first-time child abuse offenders, increasing sentences from three to nine years. The legislation would also double the sentences for repeat offenders, with second-time offenders potentially serving 18 years in prison as opposed to just nine. Gov. Martinez, a Republican, also wishes to extend New Mexico’s “Baby Brianna” law, which currently imposes a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of killing under 12, with the proposed legislation levying life sentences for those found guilty of killing anyone under the age of 18 within the state. The bill, introduced by state Rep. Al Park (D-Albuquerque) and state Senator Gay Kerman (R-Hobbs), would also stiffen penalties for drunk drivers responsible for accidents that result in the death or injury of children.

Kentucky Newspapers Fighting for Release of Unedited Child Abuse Records

Earlier this week, The Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal filed separate motions in an attempt to get the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to release full case files involving child deaths and near-deaths as a result of abuse or neglect. The motions came following the cabinet’s release of more than 300 pages of heavily edited internal reviews on Monday. The redacted files omitted or censored the names of not only children that were killed or injured, but in some instances, the names of suspects and counties in which the abuses occurred. Wednesday, the Louisville Courier-Journal filed a motion in the Franklin Circuit Court requesting that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services be held in contempt for editing the files. That same day, the Lexington Herald-Leader asked Judge Phillip Shepherd to make the cabinet produced unabridged copies of social worker reviews from 2009 and 2010.

Penn State Support Wall for child abuse prevention. Photo credit: pennstatelive/Flickr

Reporting Child Abuse, in Pennsylvania and Around the Nation

With former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky facing allegations of sexual abuse against eight children spanning a 15-year period, many in the American public are left wondering how such a chronic narrative of seduction and abuse could go on so long. At least one parent brought allegations of sex abuse to the police as early as 1998. Since then, at least two university employees say they witnessed Sandusky in the commission of a sexual act with young boys, yet according to records from local law enforcement the complaints never reached police. In 2000, a Penn State janitor says he witnessed what he described as Sandusky performing oral sex on a young boy in a university shower, according to a Pennsylvania state grand jury. He never reported the incident, fearing he would lose his job, according the grand jury.