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(NEW YORK) Onondaga Law Enforcement Leaders, Crime Survivors Say Over 200 New York State Children Are Abused or Neglected Every Day

Contact: Arielle Bernstein,
cell: (631) 495-2939

Citing enormous toll on children and child abuse-crime link, law enforcement leaders support efforts to break cycle of abuse through voluntary home visiting

Syracuse, NY — The numbers are eye opening: the number of kids abused or neglected in one year could fill every seat in Madison Square Garden, more than three times over. Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Onondaga Police Chiefs Association and Baldwinsville Chief of Police Michael Lefancheck and Janice Grieshaber-Geddes, mother of Jenna murdered in 1997 and co-author of Jenna’s Law drew attention to the figures Thursday, releasing a new report from law enforcement leaders and crime survivors across the state on the extent of child abuse and neglect across New York State. On behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York, the Onondaga County law enforcement released a report with data showing that at least 77,000 children in New York State suffered abuse or neglect in 2010—more than 200 every day. Among New York children who suffered abuse and neglect in 2010, the report says at least 114 children died. In Onondaga County alone, there were 1,781 children abused or neglected in 2010.

The report emphasizes 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 taxpayers money.

Onondaga County law enforcement leaders and crime survivors raised concerns at a news conference held at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. They called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to protect and increase the state’s investment in home visiting services to help reduce child abuse and neglect and later crime. They also urged members of the state’s Congressional Delegation to protect and expand federal funding for evidence-based home visiting services.

In addition to protecting vulnerable children, law enforcement leaders want to prevent abuse and neglect because such maltreatment contributes to future crime and, in some cases, actually constitutes a crime. While most survivors of childhood abuse and neglect never become violent criminals, research shows that nearly 30 percent more of these children will become violent criminals than a control group without a history of abuse. This equates to about 3,000 additional violent criminals in New York State who would not have become violent criminals if not for the abuse or neglect they endured. Survivors are also more likely to abuse their own children, creating a cycle of violence that can span generations.

“I have a saying in my office: ‘we speak for those who can’t.’ This is particularly applicable to child abuse cases,” D.A. Fitzpatrick said. “Our job is to hold those perpetrators who hurt children accountable in our legal system and protect children from abusers and predators. But unfortunately, by the time a child abuser is prosecuted and brought to justice, damage has already been done to the child-victim and his or her family. Our society needs to place as much value on prevention as it does on punishment.”

The report details research on programs proven to prevent early abuse and neglect. 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 who did not participate had twice as many incidents of abuse and neglect as children in participating families. 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.

“Research shows that providing home visiting services to parents at high risk of abusing their babies pays big dividends in cutting crime and the cost of social programs. “ Chief Lefancheck said. “Making these services available to families of newborns significantly reduces early abuse and neglect, fosters positive child development and sets families on the road to success.”

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. New York State can only realize such returns through investing in proven, evidence-based programs; policymakers need to ensure public investments are directed to those services.

“Can we do more to prevent child abuse and neglect? You bet we can. We have decades of research to prove it and we are paying a dreadful price in terms of injuries to our kids and injuries to our communities for failing to do so,” Ms. Grieshaber-Geddes said. “No matter what we do, we can never bring back a loved one or make the pain associated with that loss go away. We know a lot about what works to reduce abuse and neglect. We just need to get serious about doing it.”

In the 2011 fiscal year, New York spent less than $50 million from combined local, state and federal sources for two voluntary home-visiting programs that have strong evidence they reduce child abuse and neglect. The Nurse Family Partnership Program and Healthy Families combined currently serve less than 10 percent of families of newborns who would otherwise qualify and benefit from these services.

A participant in the Nurse-Family Partnership program, Alyssa Richmond, joined the law enforcement leaders at the news conference. She spoke about her personal experience with the home-visiting model.

“What I’ve learned from my nurse, Annie, is patience to take care of my daughter and to listen to her,” Ms. Richmond said. “I have learned a lot from Annie’s lessons and the readings she has given me. I love having NFP in my life because they are a tremendous support, and we are a team.”

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members are also voicing 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, including nearly 200 from New York State: one for every child who died from abuse or neglect in 2010. In the letter, law enforcement leaders and crime survivors agreed: “America can and must do more to prevent child abuse and neglect. From a fiscal, moral and public safety perspective, we have an obligation to invest in home visiting and protect children from the harm caused by abuse and neglect.”


D.A. Fitzpatrick, Chief Lefancheck and Janice Grieshaber-Geddes are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors, including over 300 members in New York State.

Learn more and read the report at

View our info-graphic on child abuse and neglect in America.