Child abuse data shows mixed numbers - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Child abuse data shows mixed numbers


National government reports suggest the number of child abuse cases is down in recent years, but new data shows the number of children hospitalized from child abuse is up.

And local data shows the numbers are steady. Tammy Gwaltney, the CEO and the President of the Beacon Health Center said locally, they've seen the number of child abuse cases remain steady during recent years.

She said they see about 500 to 700 cases of child abuse a year. Gwaltney said more child abuse cases are reported during the holidays and March.

"What we think is going on is kids have been out of school for awhile for the holidays, and they're back in school, and if there's issues going on, that's starting to come to the attention of the teachers, school personnel, school counselors, or whomever, so we start to see traditionally those reports go up in March. We also don't know if sometimes it's a weather related thing that families are in close proximity to each other ‘cause it's bad weather, things start to happen that are inappropriate, and those disclosures start to come about," said Gwaltney.

Amy Russell, the Deputy Director of the National Child Protection Training Center said those national numbers can vary for two reasons.

Russell said hospital report numbers could be high due to workers that are better trained to spot child abuse in recent years.

She attributed lower national report numbers to an alternative response system. She said that's when an abuse situation is reported, but the level of risk could label the case as something other than child abuse.

"If it's a case that there's mild forms of risk of harm, for children in families, there's not an imminent risk there for the kids, or whatever the risk was may have passed for them, there was just a temporary parenting issues," said Russell.

"Here are some cases where there is less risk to the child, we may not have to mandate services for this family, it's not a serious physical abuse, or a sexual abuse case, we may have a more appropriate response by putting them in this differential response," said Russell.

Russell said nationally, we spend about $124 billion in 2010 currency each year on child abuse issues.

Gwaltney stresses the importance to report child abuse cases.

"Sometimes that's what prevents someone from coming forward, is they're afraid they're going to be identified. You can report anonymously to that number. As mandated reporters, I always encourage people of course to give all that identifying information, who you are, so the authorities can get back in touch with you, but you can do that anonymously."

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