II. The Current State of Child Abuse and Neglect in Mississippi 6
III. Other States’ Efforts to Combat Child Abuse and Neglect 18
IV. Conclusion 24
While the number of children subject to abuse or neglect has dropped over the past decade, it is undoubtedly the case that child abuse and neglect remains one of the most serious concerns for children in the United States. Nationwide, nearly 702,000 children (or 9.3 out of 1,000) were subject to some form of abuse in the Fiscal Year 2009, NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT a drop from even the year before (10.3 victims per 1,000 children), NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT and a significant drop from earlier recorded findings in 1995 (15 victims per 1,000). NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Still, the numbers remain alarmingly high, particularly given the dire consequences. A number of studies have noted that the impact of abuse and neglect can last an entire lifetime; it can include, among other things, physical health issues (such as damage to a child’s brain), psychological complications (such as cognitive delays, depression, and anxiety), behavioral consequences (such as increased likelihood of involvement in high-risk behaviors and greater likelihood of juvenile crime and delinquency), and societal consequences (such as increased costs to maintain a robust child welfare system). NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT In short, the victims of child abuse include not only the abused themselves, but society as a whole.
This broad array of potential consequences is reflective of the individual differences between the perpetrators and victims of child abuse and neglect. Whether a victim will experience long-term effects, what exactly those effects will be, and the severity of the effects depend on a variety of factors. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The impact of abuse varies based on the age and developmental level of a child at the time of abuse, the type of abuse involved, the intensity level of the abuse, and the relationship between the victim and abuser. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The key mitigating factor that contributes to reduced long-term impact is a child’s “resilience,” defined as his or her ability to “cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience.” NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Resilience, in turn, is developed through a mix of innate characteristics and outside influences like community stability and the support of other adults. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
For those children who are unable to avoid major consequences, child abuse and neglect has both physical and psychological impacts. Both types of effects can be split into short-term and long-term categories. In the short term, the physical impact spans the spectrum from minor scrapes and bruises to extremely severe injuries or even death. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The long-term physical effects of abuse are the subject of emerging research, and they include impaired brain development, allergies, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, and ulcers. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT On the psychological side, short-term effects of abuse include isolation, fear, and an inability to trust. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT These in turn can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and relationship difficulties into adulthood. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Abuse can even result in reduced cognitive abilities as manifested in language development and academic achievement, as well as personality disorders and other antisocial behavior. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
The individual impacts on the victims of child abuse—physical, emotional, and behavioral—are severe enough to make this a wide-ranging problem. However, society pays a collective price for the abuse and neglect of some of its most vulnerable members as well. Direct costs alone, including the costs of investigating child abuse and neglect via child welfare services and expenditures by various government entities in responding to instances of abuse and neglect, is estimated at $24 billion per year. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The indirect costs—those resulting from juvenile and adult criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence connected to child abuse and neglect—are as high at $69 billion per year. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT As such, legislators and other policy makers have a tremendous responsibility to address the problem and its resultant human and societal costs.
The most significant piece of Federal legislation to date in this area is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT CAPTA was enacted in order to aid the states, in their individual capacities, in developing child protection systems tailored to their communities. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT One goal of the legislation was to ensure that child protection systems would be “comprehensive, child-centered, family-focused, and community-based, should incorporate all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence or recurrence of child abuse and neglect, and should promote physical and psychological recovery and social re-integration in an environment that fosters the health, safety, self-respect, and dignity of the child.” NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Under CAPTA, child abuse and neglect is defined as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm;” NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT states, however, are responsible for adopting their own definitions of abuse and neglect within this minimal standard. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT In addition to providing funding to the states to support the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of abuse and neglect, the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also acts as a clearinghouse, culling information (through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)) from the various states about abuse within their particular localities. The CAPTA legislation, most recently amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT has been crucial in preventing abuse and neglect throughout the country and has been continuously reauthorized by Congress since its adoption in 1974. Additionally, Congress implemented the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which states that all children have the right to live in a permanent home that is free of abuse and neglect. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT State civil definitions of neglect refer to the grounds upon which state child protective agencies can intervene in order to prevent the abuse or neglect of a child; criminal definitions (a separate body of law) provide the grounds upon which the state can prosecute offenders. States, through their laws, have generally recognized four major types of child maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Physical abuse is often defined as “any non-accidental physical injury to the child,” including striking, hitting, and biting of children, or any other action that causes injury. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Neglect involves the “the failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision such that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm;” NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT many states (including Mississippi) include the failure to educate within the definition of neglect. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Sexual abuse, an element of the laws of every state, includes various acts of sexual abuse, as well as the sexual exploitation of children (including allowing children to engage in prostitution and pornography). NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Finally, emotional abuse is typically defined as “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child as evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition.” NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT A number of states (not including Mississippi) have included parental substance abuse as an element of their definitions, while a smaller number (also not including Mississippi) have termed “abandonment” as grounds for a finding of abuse or neglect. NOTEREF _Ref170435939 \h \* MERGEFORMAT