It is clear from headlines that child abuse and neglect is a nationwide tragedy – and the impacts reverberate to us all. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we would like to take the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue.
Approximately 702,000 incidents of child maltreatment are identified each year – enough to pack 10 football stadiums. In 2016, an estimated 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect, which amounts to five children per day. Child abuse is tragic not only from a human standpoint, but from an economic one as well: child abuse and neglect costs society over $124 billion per year – enough to send over a million kids to college.
Child abuse is a public health crisis. Children who are abused may suffer physical injuries (e.g., bruises, burns, broken bones), as well as emotional and academic consequences (e.g., depression, anxiety, poor school performance). Child abuse can also affect broader health outcomes into adolescence and adulthood. Abuse is considered among the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) which can lead to long-term health consequences including mental illness, obesity, substance abuse, heart disease, and a shortened lifespan. Children who experience abuse are twice as likely to commit violent crimes in the future. Nearly 70% of prison inmates have reported abuse and neglect and 30% of abused and neglected children will go on to abuse and neglect their own children.
Thankfully, there is much that can be done to help prevent child abuse, as well as to minimize the long-term impact on victims. Adults must learn how do identify the signs of abuse and intervene appropriately; communities can support overwhelmed parents with respite and assistance; businesses can adopt family friendly policies; legislators can adopt statutes/bills that provide resources to organizations that support child abuse victims, such as county-based Children’s Advocacy Centers; and professionals can ensure that child victims are not re-victimized by the system and have access to the services they need in order to heal.
To learn more about child abuse and what you can do, visit the New Jersey Children’s Alliance at www.njcainc.org.
Nydia Y. Monagas, Psy.D.
Executive Director, New Jersey Children’s Alliance