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Saving children from deadly abuse, one family at a time
By thecrimereport.org - Natasha O’Dell Archer
Published: 05/10/2012

The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal focused national media attention on a dark fact of American life: the nationwide epidemic of child abuse, neglect and endangerment.

Tragically, that case was just the tip of the iceberg.

Nearly 700,000 U.S. children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in 2010. At least 1,560 of these children died a result.

The youngest children are the most at-risk for these types of deadly cases of abuse: one third of child abuse and neglect victims are under age 4, and almost half of child abuse and neglect fatalities were infants. Children are far more likely to be abused or neglected by a parent than any other person in their lives.

What’s more, bad parenting has an undeniable tendency to pass from one generation to the next. One frequently-cited study, published in 1987 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry by Prof. Joan Kaufman and Dr. Edward Zigler Ph.D., estimates that a third of children with a history of abuse may maltreat their own children.

While most children who survive abuse or neglect do not grow up to become criminals, abuse and neglect do substantially increase the risk of later involvement in serious crime. One criminal justice researcher, Prof. Cathy Spatz Widom of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found that approximately half of all juveniles arrested for delinquency had a history of abuse or neglect.

Without preventing child abuse, a cycle of violence is set in motion: one generation passes abuse and neglect on to the next.

The opportunity to reach families is especially important, precisely because the youngest children are most at-risk. Parenting is the biggest challenge many people will ever face, but for single and poor teen parents it can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, proven solutions exist to reach at-risk families, improve child safety and prevent harmful child abuse. High-quality voluntary home visiting services connect new and expectant parents with a nurse or other trained advisor who visits the family’s home on a regular basis.

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