A shocking report released by the Associated Press shows that at least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the U.S. over a six-year span, all in plain sight of child protection authorities. Most of the 786 children were under the age of 4. The 786 children listed in the report died of abuse or neglect even as authorities were currently investigating their homes or providing protective services because of the parents’ or caregivers’ previous history of violence or neglect.
These 786 children who died of abuse did so under the eyes of the very people who were supposed to protect them, who knew they currently needed protection, and failed to provide that protection.
Mattisyn Blaz was only 2-months-old when her father, Matthew Blaz, killed her by spiking her “like a football,” according to the prosecutor. Police and child services had already made Matthew’s acquaintance just two weeks after the baby was born, when in a drunken rage, he threw his wife down while she was holding the baby. He was ordered by a judge to take anger management classes, and convinced he had changed, his wife allowed him back into the home.
The next official visit from child services came on the day of Mattisyn’s funeral.
Ethan Henderson, at 10 weeks of age, had already been treated for a broken arm. Hotline workers had received at least 13 phone calls claiming that Ethan and his siblings were being abused. A caseworker visited the family’s home and reported that the baby appeared “well cared for and safe in the care of his parents.”
Six days after the caseworker’s visit, Ethan’s father threw him into a recliner so hard that it caused a fatal brain injury.
There are at least 784 other stories that are just as brutal, and just as heartbreaking.
So what is driving this dilemma of abuse nationwide — and why are these children who are known to be in danger not receiving the help they need? There seems to be several factors.
First, the child protective services system is suffering from a severe shortage of workers and an overload of cases. Because of slashed budgets, nearly 40 percent of the shockingly high three million child abuse and neglect complaints made annually to hotlines are “screened out,” meaning they never receive an investigation. Click here to see how one state alone failed to investigate 6,500 cases reported.
There is also a lack of training and understanding for the workers who answer the abuse hotlines. This leads to reports being misclassified, which can lead to deadly consequences for the children involved. Furthermore, there is a policy that promotes keeping families together and intact, which also leads to unwarranted death.
And perhaps most shockingly, the United States does not have a comprehensive national child welfare database, meaning that some abusers are able to avoid detection by simply moving to another state.
The Associated Press had a great deal of difficulty determining the number 786. To attempt to collect the horrifying statistics, the AP canvassed all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all branches of the military, avoiding a system that is thought to do a terrible job in reporting accurate statistics when it comes to child deaths. Many of the states canvassed struggled to provide very basic numbers, and the AP said that secrecy often prevailed when questions were asked.
As the Huffington Post reports, “Because no single, complete set of data exists for the deaths of children who already were being overseen by child welfare caseworkers, the information compiled over the course of AP’s eight-month investigation represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available.”
But the number of abuse and neglect fatalities where a prior open case existed at the time of death is undoubtedly much higher than the final, already heartbreaking tally of 786 children.
[Image via patheos.com]