Economic crisis puts many children at risk

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In the middle of all the headlines and 24-hour news reports about the economic crisis, one critical story is just beginning to be told.

In the middle of all the headlines and 24-hour news reports about the economic crisis, one critical story is just beginning to be told.

Four days after Christmas, the Washington Post ran this article: Child Neglect Cases Multiply As Economic Woes Spread.

In the article, area child welfare workers talked about the noticeable rise in the number of child abuse and neglect investigations.

Many of the new neglect cases were connected to families trying to make do without heat, electricity or necessary medical care, like asthma medications and other basic needs.

An emergency room doctor at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., worried about a recent jump in the number of children coming in with bruises, broken bones and burns, and colleagues in other cities told her they’d noticed the same thing.

Operators at child abuse prevention hotlines were also hearing from growing numbers of parents whose financial problems were pushing them over the edge and making them lose control around their children.

The child welfare experts interviewed in the article agreed that economic stress puts already fragile families, like those facing domestic violence or substance abuse, at even greater risk.

Families who may have seemed fine only a few months ago are also in danger. Linda Spears, vice president of the Child Welfare League of America, told the Post she is seeing cases of “middle-class families living in their cars, so afraid of losing their children that they tell the children not to tell anyone they’re homeless…In late winter or early spring, I suspect we’ll just begin to see the impact on kids.’’

The same stories are quietly popping up in many communities across the country. Children are already directly affected by the nation’s economy.

Between 2006 and 2007, the number of poor children grew by 500,000 to the current total of 13.3 million. That number is expected to increase even more as the full impact of the recession is felt.

And even before America reached a full-blown economic crisis, we already were experiencing a child abuse and neglect crisis.

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