KANSAS CITY, Missouri - More children have suffered from brain injuries since the economy tanked four years ago. The reason is child abuse.
Child advocates have pointed to financial woes as a reason for increased child abuse since the recession began. However, a new study released Monday gives concrete evidence that the severity of injuries from abuse is increasing.
A study released by the journal 'Pediatrics' shows that when the market crashed in 2007, the number of children treated for head trauma caused by abuse spiked dramatically. In turn, more children are dieing from those kinds of injuries.
CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jackson County reports that trends in child abuse then to mimic adult stress over finances. Executive Director Martha Gershun shared data with NBC Action News that shows a significant increase over the last five years.
Children, ages zero to five years old, served by CASA in Jackson County:
2011: 288 children
2010: 281 children
2009: 230 children
2008: 156 children
2007: 83 children
2006: 36 children
She explained that the number of children, between the ages of zero and five years old, that they've helped over the last five years has increased seven times over. Beyond the numbers, she says the severity of the abuse and neglect has escalated as the recession has continued.
Gershun said, "Families under financial stress, under economic stress, are more likely to hit their children, are more likely to shake them harder. The level of frustration in families can just rise to the level where it's taken out on the children."
She continued, "In tough economic times, everything looks harder and everything looks difficult. If parents can ask for help, ask for respite, if they turn to the community instead of taking it out on their kids, we can make a difference."
As the recession continues and the market continues to struggle, Gershun says the number of cases of neglect will continue to rise. She says one of the triggers behind neglect is long-term poverty.
She added that the hidden cost of economic failure often times falls on single mothers. Gershun explained, "Single moms who might not be able to care for their kids are forced to rely on men who might be violent, who might be sexual preditors. They're helping with the rent, they're helping with expenses and their ability to leave those men goes down in tough economic times."
CASA volunteers are child advocates who act as a voice for abused or neglected children in child welfare cases. The group can be reached at: 816-842-CASA.
The Period for Purple Crying web site offers tips for parents who might find their frustration levels rising out of control. There is always an alternative to shaking or hitting a baby or young child.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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