Child abuse number hard to pin down

We know that between October 2016 and September 2017, 80,683 the state of Oregon received 80,683 reports of child abuse or neglect. We know that just over 40,000 of those reports were referred for investigation and 32,075 investigations were completed. We know that 7,063 of those investigations yielded founded complaints of abuse, accounting for 11,000 victims. We know that 45 percent of those victims were younger than six years old. We know that 46.7 percent of those families had alcohol or drug use as the largest family stress factor in cases abuse was present and that domestic violence accounted for 29. 5 percent.

What we don’t know is the accurate rate of child abuse and neglect to confidently say it can be reduced by 90 percent by the year 2030.

90by30 has been working toward this goal since 2011 and hopes to continue to work to decrease the instances of child abuse and neglect through community partnerships and engagement. However, it may be impossible to definitively claim a reduction of 90 percent since the group did not begin with a set rate of child abuse and neglect around the county.

“There’s no community in the country who can answer that,” said Jeff Todahl, co-director and director of research for the prevention of abuse and neglect.

While 90by30 may not be able to accurately claim a reduction of 90 percent by 2030, it is working to obtain a rate of child abuse and neglect; a task marred by the nature of the topic.

“I think it’s the social norm that we don’t really talk about this and that if we ask about it, it’s an invasion of privacy,” Todahl said. “Also, people feel nervous about it. It’s hard to turn toward something as sensitive as abuse and neglect and worry that it will traumatize youth if you ask them.”

The majority of the data collected by the state, including the report released annually entitled, “Child Welfare Data Book,” comes from mandatory reporters such as doctors and teachers. However, according to Todahl, those numbers don’t always tell the entire truth. For example, rates of child abuse and neglect may dip from one year to the next but if school days are cut from the calendar, a common practice as school districts face budget cuts, then mandatory reporters have less interaction with children who may be facing abuse and neglect.

90by30, however, is hoping to collect more data to paint a more accurate picture of the situation. Four years ago, the group conducted a survey; given the definition of child abuse or neglect, residents were asked if they had experienced it in their own childhood. Thirty-seven percent said they had.

The group also has plans to go into the schools around the county and ask students a series of questions. And while the state conducts a survey of classrooms as well to compile data for its Healthy Teen Survey, Todahl says this survey is different, focusing specifically on questions about abuse and neglect, more specifically, about 170 of them.

The data will then be used to help combat abuse and neglect throughout the county utilizing community partners and programs such as the organization’s baby box program. New parents are given a box full of newborn essentials, including information that can lead to understanding rather than frustration. The goal, 90by30’s Rachel Nordquist told The Sentinel previously, was to create a safe sleep system, prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and create a connection to the community for new parents. The baby box is part of the fundamental programs issued by 90by30 in taking data and providing resources for parents or community members to reduce rates of abuse. In addressing statistics surrounding the most common timeframe for shaken baby syndrome cases, the baby box includes information on crying infants and reassures parents.

“The importance of the work that’s happening in South Lane, from pinwheels in April to so many people knitting hats for the baby box, it goes on and on,” Todahl said. Cottage Grove is leading the county which means they’re leading at the national level in many ways. We have people watching, asking if this place can figure out a way to significantly reduce child abuse.”


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