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OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY

CHILD ABUSE

WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?

Child abuse is any maltreatment or neglect of a child that results in non-accidental harm or injury and which cannot be reasonably explained. Child abuse can include: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

WHO ABUSES AND NEGLECTS CHILDREN?

In 1999, the majority of perpetrators of child maltreatment (75%) were parents, and another 10% were other relatives of the victim. People who were in other caretaking relationships to the victim (i.e. child care providers, foster parents, and facility staff) accounted for only 2% of perpetrators. About 13% of all perpetrators were classified as noncaretakers or unknown. (In many States, perpetrators of child maltreatment by definition must be in a caretaking role.)

WHAT MAKES PEOPLE ABUSE CHILDREN?

It is difficult to imagine that any person would intentionally inflict harm on a child. Many times, physical abuse is a result of excessive discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate for the child's age. The parent may simply be unaware of the magnitude of force with which he or she strikes a child. Most parents want to be good parents but sometimes lose control and are unable to cope.

Factors which contribute to child abuse include the immaturity of parents, lack of parenting skills, unrealistic expectations about children's behavior and capabilities, a parent's own negative childhood experience, social isolation, frequent family crises and drug or alcohol problems. Child abuse is a symptom that parents are having difficulty coping with their situation.

IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE LINKING ALCOHOL OR OTHER DRUG USE TO CHILD MALTREATMENT?

A 1999 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that children of substance-abusing parents were almost three times likelier to be abused and more than four times likelier to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers. Other studies suggest than an estimated 50% to 80% of all child abuse cases substantiated by Child Protective Service involve some degree of substance abuse by the child's parents.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF MALTREATMENT?

Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. CPS investigations determined that 54% of victims in 1997 suffered neglect; 24%, physical abuse; 13%, sexual abuse; 6% emotional maltreatment, and 2%, medical neglect. Many children suffer more than one type of maltreatment.

HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE REPORTED AND INVESTIGATED FOR ABUSE OR NEGLECT?

In 1999, Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies investigated 3 million reports that involved the maltreatment of approximately 4 million children.

HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE VICTIMS OF MALTREATMENT?

In 1999, CPS agencies determined just under 1 million children were victims of substantiated or indicated child abuse and neglect. The term "substantiated" means that an allegation of maltreatment was confirmed according to the level of evidence required by the State law or State policy.

The term "indicated" is an investigation finding used by some States when there is insufficient evidence to substantiate a case under State law or policy, but there is reason to suspect that maltreatment occurred or that there is risk of future maltreatment.

Several studies suggest that more children suffer from abuse or neglect than are evident in official statistics from State CPS agencies. Based on reports received and investigated by CPS, about 13.9% of children per 1,000 younger than 18 in the general population were victims of abuse or neglect. It is also estimated that 42% per 1,000 children per population were harmed or endangered by maltreatment.

HOW MANY CHILDREN DIE EACH YEAR FROM CHILD ABUSE?

Based on data reported by CPS agencies in 1999, it is estimated that nationwide, 2,000 children died as a result of child abuse or neglect. Children age 3 and under accounted for more than 3/4 of these child fatalities. The actual number of deaths may be higher, as not all child maltreatment fatalities are known to CPS.

SOURCE: National Exchange Club Foundation, 2000

WHO REPORTS CHILD ABUSE?

Anyone who has personal information about child abuse can report to the Kalamazoo Child Protective Services, (269) 337-5046. Some people are required to report by law. A physician, coroner, dentist, registered dental hygienist, medical examiner, nurse, a person licensed to provide emergency medical care, audiologist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor, certified social worker, social worker, social work technician, school administrator, school counselor or teacher, law enforcement officer, or regulated child care provider who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect shall make immediately, by telephone or otherwise, an oral report, or cause an oral report to be made, of the suspected child abuse or neglect to the Family Independent Agency - Child Protective Services. Within 72 hours after making the oral report, the reporting person shall file a written report. Failure to report by those required can result not only in civil liability, but also criminal misdemeanor charges.

WHAT DOES KALAMAZOO COUNTY DO ABOUT CHILD ABUSE?

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office takes child abuse seriously. We feel it is our obligation and duty to protect the children in our community. Whenever evidence allows, criminal charges will be pursued against the abuser.

WEB LINKS

Child Abuse Prevention Network

National Exchange Club Foundation

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