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Child abuse costs nation $285 million

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As the nation began its observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1, a landmark report estimated that the United States spends $285 million each day as a direct or indirect result of the abuse and neglect of our nation's children.

The estimate includes the direct costs associated with intervention and treating the medical and emotional problems suffered by abused and neglected children, as well as the indirect costs associated with the long-term consequences of abuse and neglect to both the individual and society at large. The annual costs are equivalent to $1,461 per U.S. family.

Each year, more than 3 million children are reported as abused or neglected in the United States, and more than 1 million of these reports are confirmed, according to Prevent Child Abuse America, the author of the study. The cost analysis, which was funded by a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, represents the first comprehensive attempt to estimate the national costs associated with such abuse and neglect.

Those statistics have been emphasized throughout the month by Prevent Child Abuse America.

Studies reportedly have shown for years that abused and neglected children are less likely to be school-ready and more likely to exhibit behavior disorders, to become teen-aged parents and juvenile criminals, and to abuse alcohol and drugs. These consequences can become more pronounced as abused or neglected children grow into adulthood, which makes them more likely to become adult criminals and to develop chronic illnesses.

As a result, a broad range of services from medical and mental health to special education and law enforcement are brought to bear, often at a staggering cost to society. According to the study by Prevent Child Abuse America, for example, the cost of hospitalization for abused and neglected children is estimated to be $17 million each day, or $6.2 billion annually, while the total annual cost to the child welfare system is estimated at $39 million each day, or $14.4 billion each year.

Until society recognizes the value of prevention and invests adequate resources in support prevention activities, the United States will never eradicate child abuse and neglect and we will continue to exact an astronomical cost on both the individuals being abused and society.

Prevent Chid Abuse is the leading organization working at the national, state and local levels to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation's children. Headquartered in Chicago, Prevent Child Abuse America has 39 chapters in 38 states and the District of Columbia. It is supported by private and corporate donors.

More information about the prevention of child abuse and neglect is available by visiting the Prevent Child Abuse America Web site at www.preventchildabuse.org.

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