The Child Abuse Challenge: How Big is the Problem?
Texas is a rapidly growing state with abundant opportunities of its residents. But, at the same time, families must deal with the troubles and tensions that families face even in good times. The inability to cope with the stress of too much or too little work, poverty, drug or alcohol abuse, marital conflict, isolation and other issues in many instances leads to abuse of children – the most vulnerable members of a household and of our communities.
Journey to The New LSS
With one in 10 of the nation’s unduplicated confirmed victims of child abuse, Texas faces a tremendous problem that has a physical and emotional cost to the children, a financial cost to the state and social costs to our communities. Here are some of the state’s 2013 statistics:
- There were more than 250,000 allegations of child abuse.
- An estimated 66,000 unduplicated victims of child abuse were confirmed (neglect 83 percent, physical 19 percent, sexual 10 percent, medical 3 percent and emotional 1 percent).
- An estimated 17,000 children were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
- There were an estimated 30,000 children living in DFPS care.
- More than 6,000 children are legally awaiting adoption.
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions, and at all levels of education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway reported in 2013 in “Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect.”
The state’s burgeoning child population – 7 million, an increase of nearly 1 million in the last decade – and the rising cost has increased pressure to confront this alarming problem. A study published in 2011 in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect estimated the annual national cost of child maltreatment to be $124 billion, including medical costs, increased spending for special education, the child welfare system and the criminal justice system, and diminished earning power. Texas’s share, based on its share of the population of children, would be more than $12 billion.
The consequences of child abuse are tragic, and they feed a continuing cycle; about 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, according to HHS. Government statistics and experts who have studied child abuse on the national level provide a troubling picture:
From its early years providing shelter for orphans in Texas and Louisiana in the 19th Century, Lutheran Social Services of the South has been providing care for the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Today, LSS is at the forefront of foster care and adoption services in Texas. Each day, almost 400 LSS foster homes care for 800 to 900 abused and neglected children throughout Texas and operates four residential treatment centers to serve children with several emotional and behavioral problems, most stemming from past abuse and neglect. BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a program for youth aging out of foster care, was launched in New Orleans and introduced in Austin this fall.
As Texas addresses the tragedy of child abuse in our communities, LSS will be there, continuing a 130-year tradition of nurturing children in the name of Jesus Christ.