Thursday, December 01, 2011

Child Abuse: The Silent Epidemic in America

Susan Brannon
28 November 2011
It came to my attention that there are over 3 million reports of child abuse each year in the United States.  In 2009 approximately 3.3 million child abuse reports were made involving 6 million children.  This is because when the government reports child abuse cases, it is the number of cases, not the number of children, nor how many of them at one time.  These numbers make America the worst in developing countries for child abuse.  The highest amount of reports came from the state of Texas.

The BBC compares countries by annual deaths per 100,000
  • Germany: 0.8UK: 0.9
    Japan: 1

    France: 1.4

    America: 2.4
      America is almost double of France; more than double for the other reported countries
These numbers are the "official" numbers, however most of the abused and neglected children never come to the attention of government authorities.  This is particularly true for neglected and sexually abused children, who have no signs of physical harm.  In the end, these numbers do NOT represent the actual rates of child abuse in the United States. (Nor for that manner, in any other country)

According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services; Division for Children and Families: A victim is defined as a "child for whom the State determined at least one maltreatment was found to be substantiated or indicated; and a disposition of substantiated, indicated, or alternative response victim was assigned.Does the term substantiated or indicated mean that if there are reports, and there are no signs of physical abuse, is it not counted?

We now know the official numbers but the real questions is; "Why is child abuse so high in America?" It is difficult to find the answers, because there are so many factors that could be involved.  The question of violence in movies and television, stress, tension in a working world, poor role models...the list could go on, and on.   Considering the facts listed below; child abuse occurs no matter what the race, income, religion, or region. This means that we cannot include poverty, blacks, whites, Asian, Christians, Mormons or po- dunk town rural America.  The findings mean anyone can be involved, your neighbor, your boss, your pastor, or your best friend and considering the numbers it is most likely that on your average day, you will have spoken or sat next to someone that is/was either an abuser or a victim.  This is a sad and unspoken reality in America, the land of the free where dream can come true.

Dept. of Human Services reports: 
  • "Eighty-seven percent of unique victims were comprised of three races or ethnicities—African-American (22.3%),
    ---Hispanic (20.7%),
    ---White (44.0%). 
  • However, victims of African-American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and multiple racial descent had the highest rates of victimization at 15.1, 11.6, and 12.4 victims, respectively, per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity."
Sadly, we do know that most cases of child abuse does not occur just one time.  
  • The re-occurrence rate is 94.6% according to the Child and Family Services Reviews. 
Their numbers are based on those who have been abused within a 6 month period within the reporting year. This means that the child is not only abused once, but twice, or three times or more in 6 months.  

It seems to me that in order to gather the percentage rate for re-occurrence, then those who gather the reports, know of the crimes, the abusers and the victims; since the re-occurrence rate is so high, then why are the children still with or in contact with their abusers?  Why is the child put back into the position of repeated abuse?   *Remember, the numbers reflect the cases that are "reported" and there are many more that are not reported.
  • Unfortunately, the youngest children are the most vulnerable, 80.8%  of the children are either killed or abused during the first three years of their life. I need to write that again, to make sure these facts sink into our minds of denial.  The first three years of life.  During the most important time in a child's' life where they learn to trust and understand how the world works.  UNICEF reports, "These early childhood years are when experiences and interactions with parents, family members and other adults influence the way a child’s brain develops, with as much impact as such factors as adequate nutrition, good health and clean water. And how the child develops during this period sets the stage for later success in school and the character of adolescence and adulthood."  and continues, "But the brain’s malleability during these early years also means that when children do not get the care they need, or if they experience starvation, abuse or neglect, their brain development may be compromised"  This includes all the key ingredients, All the key ingredients of emotional intelligence — confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate and cooperativeness — 
  • More than 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way. In 2009, those of those abused, 37% was by their mother and 18.6 % by the father.  The lowest amount was zero, for a foster parent male relative.
If it is mothers who are committing the most of the abuses, then we should investigate as to why are the mothers doing this. A few studies revealed that the risk factor for children increases with extreme low income, low maternal education, maternal depression and the presence of other young children in the home.  The risk factor decreases when the mother has a strong presence of social support. (PubMed)  Additional studies reveal that the new moms are isolated and more withdrawn after the birth of a new child and combined with postpartum blues, risk factors increase.

The bottom line?  I believe that in light of the current research the mothers need stronger social support that is combined with increased maternal education including listing where the mothers can go for help in their area.  Unfortunately, we are in an economic downturn with government cut-backs at every turn.  Funding for home based social support is about diminished to help these mothers who are distraught. 

To lower the numbers of abuse cases in the United States, is important to promote and advocate as soon as the child is born and hospitals are the best places to distribute educational and local resources to all new mothers. They should be distributed to all new mothers no matter the age, race or income.  If someone would know of where they can go for help, then just maybe a child could be saved.

I have noticed in my research on topics such as this, that finding the resources is quite difficult and a person would need to be able to think logically with a clear and concise mind in order to find services in their areas. One website leads to another, many of the phone numbers are wrong, they do not answer their phones or the services are in a different state.  In addition, the mother would have to be Internet savvy and have internet access, while at the same time, deal with the stressors of being a new mother.

Here are Some Quick Facts:
  • In 2010 there were more than 5 deaths each day due to abuse and neglect. This means that a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds
  • Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
  • It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities are due to maltreatment are not recorded on death certificates.

  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, ethnic, cultural, religious and educational background.
  • 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.
  • About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The annual cost of child abuse and neglect for 2007 was 104 Billion dollars.
  • 25% of those abused are more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
78.3% of the reported abuse was for neglect
10.8% physical abuse
7.6% Psychological maltreatment
7.6% Sexual Abuse

Child Help 
Department for Health and Human Services and Child welfare

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Minimum Wage in Real Value 1938-2010

Susan Brannon
26 November 2011

Did you know that the U.S. minimum wage in real dollars had been going down in relation to inflation?  This is one reason why it now takes two or three jobs per household to keep above water.  In 1938 the the minimum wage was $0.25 / per hour to 2010 of $7.25.  If we adjust the wages to 2010 dollars this shows the real value of minimum wage.  In 1968, the minimum wage in real dollars was equal to $10.04 per/hour.  That is quite a drop from todays wages.
Real Value Minimum Wage Red Squares - Nominal Value Blue Dots . Graph by OSU 2010
Even if you take the states that ventured away from the Federal minimum wage amounts, with the highest being in Washington for January 1, 2012 to $9.04 per/hour, that is still a drop from 1968.  No wonder the 60's were remembered as the good times.

If that is not enough for reality, if we take the Real Annual Wage since 1938 and compare that to the real poverty level for a family of four, not once has the required Federal minimum wage levels kept any family above the poverty line.  Minimum wage varied from a maximum of 90% of the poverty level in 1968, and has averaged two thirds of the poverty level since 1959, when the poverty level was established.  In 2006 the minimum wage level was raised for the first time in ten years without any adjustment.
Real Annual Income Wage /Poverty Line; Graph OSU
The reality is that as the real value of minimum wage has declined, so has the percent of workers that it covered.  Now over 130 cities survive on "living wages".

A living wage is the minimum hourly income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs during a 40 hour work week.  This includes shelter, clothing, food etc.  Some cities has passed a living wage ordinance such as San Francisco, California, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This usually totals to be around $3 to $7 dollars above minimum wage.