Child Abuse: The Deadly Cost of Inattention and Inaction

March 27, 2014 Comments Off on Child Abuse: The Deadly Cost of Inattention and Inaction

Child Abuse: The Deadly Cost of Inattention and Inaction
Bruce Lesley 03/26/2014

The Miami Herald series entitled “Innocents Lost” deserves a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into 477 deaths of children that were a part of the child welfare system in the State of Florida over the past six years. More than 70 percent of the children who died were two years old or younger and completely defenseless.

The series reinforces two critical but basic responsibilities that we, as a society, owe children facing abuse and neglect:

First, we must strengthen families by preventing abuse and neglect whenever possible.
Second, we must take swift but thoughtful action that gives children the best possible chance to grow up in a safe, stable, loving and supportive permanent home.

The series also highlights another critical fact: money matters and the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable children cannot be protected on the cheap….

However, as the Miami Herald documents, Florida embraced “family preservation” on the cheap. While the number of children in foster care dropped from 30,200 to 18,185 during a period that featured the Great Recession and increased family stress and difficulties, the state simultaneously and tragically slashed family monitoring and support services, resulting in more children left with substance abusing, neglectful, and violent parents. Tough times are the most important times to protect children, but Florida (and as noted later, the federal government) took the opposite approach during the last few years.

According to Audra D.S. Burch and Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald, while Florida’s overall state spending increased by $10 billion from 2005 to 2013, child welfare funding was cut by the Legislature by $80 million and grew to $100 million after Governor Rick Scott’s vetoes last year. And, while “either drugs or alcohol came up in 323 of the child deaths,” the state also “reduced funding for drug treatment.”

For children, the consequences were tragic. As the Daytona Beach News-Journal concluded, “…the state tried to do it on the cheap… Hundreds of children paid with their lives.”….

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