(MONTANA) Yellowstone County Sheriff, County Attorney Speak Out Against Child Abuse and Neglect: 25 Montana Kids Abused or Neglected Every Week
Citing toll on children and child abuse-crime link, Sheriff supports efforts to break cycle of abuse through voluntary home visiting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2012
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BILLINGS, Mont. (April 26, 2012) — Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder and County Attorney Scott Twito took a stand against child abuse and neglect Thursday, releasing a new report called “Breaking the Cycle,” on the extent of child abuse and neglect in Montana during a news conference. The Sheriff and County Attorney, joined by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Montana State Director Dave Curry, released data showing that at least 1,400 children in Montana suffered abuse or neglect in 2010—more than 25 every week. Nationally, there were almost 700,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect that claimed the lives of 1,560 in 2010.
The law enforcement leaders voiced strong support for services proven to prevent child abuse by releasing an open letter to policy makers, signed by over 1,560 law enforcement leaders nationwide: one for every child who died from abuse or neglect in 2010. Over 80 Montana law enforcement leaders were signatories on that letter. The report and open letter emphasized the benefits of voluntary home visiting services, which help new parents cope with the stresses of raising a young child. Research shows that quality home visiting programs can cut child abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent, significantly reduce later crime and save money.
Sheriff Linder and County Attorney Twito raised their concerns at a news conference at RiverStone Health in Billings. They urged members of the state’s Congressional Delegation, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Jon Tester, and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, to protect federal funding for evidence-based home visiting services. They called on Montana state leaders to diligently pursue funding now available to provide more eligible families with access.
A major reason why law enforcement leaders want to prevent abuse and neglect is that such maltreatment contributes to future crime and, in some incidents, actually constitutes a crime. While most survivors of childhood abuse and neglect never become violent criminals, research shows that children who are abused or neglected are nearly 30 percent more likely to become violent criminals. This equates to 55 additional violent criminals in Montana each year, who would not have become violent criminals if not for the abuse or neglect they endured. Survivors are more likely to abuse their own children, creating a cycle of violence that can span generations.
“I joined the sheriff’s reserve as a volunteer, but public safety became a full-time calling for me because I wanted to help make Yellowstone County a safer place to live, work and raise a family,” Sheriff Linder said. “I’m proud to support the effort to prevent child abuse and neglect through voluntary home visiting because it will save kids from abuse, reduce serious crime and save us far more than it costs in the long run. Providing assistance to vulnerable families pays off in a big way by stopping this cycle of abuse, neglect and violence before it escalates.
Just last month, the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office announced new efforts to build cross-agency teams to respond to incidents of child abuse and neglect. County Attorney Twito said because many abusers are abused themselves, preventing child abuse in the first place is key to breaking the cycle
“The experience of assisting the child victims and witnesses of abuse or neglect is eye-opening for a prosecuting attorney. We need an approach that coordinates government agencies to protect victims and effectively prosecute perpetrators of alleged crimes against children. We also need to reach out to those at-risk families and prevent cases of abuse or neglect whenever we can,” County Attorney Twito said. “Voluntary home visiting services such as the one we are visiting today can help provide families with information and educational resources and substantially reduce child abuse. That’s why we support funding for evidence based home visitation programs.”
A study of one program model, the Nurse-Family Partnership program, compared at-risk children whose mothers received visits with similar children whose families were not served. Children in participating families were half as likely to be abused or neglected. By age 15, youth whose families did not participate in the program had more than twice as many arrests. One site of the quality nurse home visitation program found significantly fewer cases of childhood injury and child mortality among families who participated.
The direct taxpayer costs alone of paying for child abuse and neglect in Montana are huge. In fiscal year 2006, the total cost to taxpayers from federal, state and local child welfare spending reached over $62 million. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the total economic burden from child maltreatment in the U.S. is around $124 billion each year.
By reducing child abuse and neglect and later crime and other negative outcomes, evidence-based home visiting programs are highly cost-effective. Analysis from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy showed that the Nurse-Family Partnership program produced a net savings of almost $21,000 for each family served. States can only realize returns of that size by investing in proven, evidence-based programs. The report calls on policymakers to ensure that public investments are directed to those services and to rigorously evaluate promising programs without a strong evidence base to confirm they deliver results.
In 2011, Montana received $3.26 million in competitive grant funding to expand voluntary home-visiting services, through the federal Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The funds will go to transition to or support family support services, such as the Parents as Teachers, Nurse-Family Partnership and Healthy Families America, all of which have research showing reductions in child abuse and neglect.
Sheriff Mike Linder and County Attorney Scott Twito are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors, including almost 80 in Montana.
Learn more and read the report at www.fightcrime.org/
View our info-graphic on child abuse and neglect in America.