Children's Voice Oct/Nov 2005

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Report Discloses Child Maltreatment Statistics for 2003

An estimated 906,000 children nationwide were victims of abuse and neglect in 2003, according to national data released last spring by the Children's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The statistics indicate that about 12.4 out of every 1,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect, a rate comparable to the previous year's victimization rate of 12.3 out of 1,000 children.

The statistics are based on information collected through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. The data show that child protective service agencies received about 2.9 million reports of possible maltreatment in 2003. Of the 906,000 substantiated
cases of maltreatment of children, most involved cases of neglect.

In 2003, an estimated 1,500 children died due to abuse or neglect, more than three-quarters of them younger than 4 years old.

The full report, Child Maltreatment 2003, is available at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cmreports.htm.

Index Shows Ups and Downs in Child Well-Being Over 30 Years

Dramatic declines in rates of violence and risky behaviors such as teen births, smoking, and alcohol and illegal drug use during the past 10 years have contributed substantially to modest progress in the overall well-being of America's children, according to the 2005 Child Well-Being Index (CWI), released earlier this year by the Foundation for Child Development.

According to the series of indicators used by the CWI, child well-being improved fractionally in 2003 over 2002 and represented a 4.5% gain over 1975, the first year researchers conducted the index. The rate of educational attainment in particular--as measured by student test scores in reading and mathematics--remains stagnant, despite two decades of national focus on how to improve the education system. More children live in poverty today than in 1975, and persistent high rates of obesity, which have more than tripled in 30 years, are seriously hurting children's health.

"If you took away the huge declines in crime, violence, and risky behaviors since the early 1990s, the picture for America's children would be bleak," says Duke University sociologist Kenneth Land, developer of the CWI.

On the positive side, the CWI shows that violent criminal activity among adolescents and teens has plummeted more than 64% since 1975, and violent crime victimization of children has fallen more than 38%. Meanwhile, births to adolescent and teenage mothers have dropped nearly 37%. Smoking among young people continues to decline, though the rate of binge alcohol drinking increased from 27.9% in 2003 to 29.2% in 2004.

Land says a number of factors likely played a role in those improvements, including the end of the crack cocaine epidemic, a booming economy during the mid- to late-1990s, increased community policing, and the generally more active parenting style of the baby boom generation.

A national, research-based composite measure, updated annually, the CWI combines data from 28 indicators across seven domains into a single number for child well-being. The quality-of-life domains include family economic well-being, health, safety and behavioral concerns, educational attainment, community connectedness, social relationships, and emotional and spiritual well-being. For more information about the CWI online, go to www.soc.duke.edu/~cwi, or download the full report from the Foundation for Child Development website at www.ffcd.org/ourwork/k-index.html.

Office Depot Takes Part in Backpack Donations

Know of a child in foster care who needs a backpack this school year? A little digging in your community may turn up more resources than you thought existed.

Community groups and organizations are increasingly taking up backpack donation drives to help kids in need. Corporate sponsors are also joining in. For four years, Office Depot has conducted a National Backpack Program, donating 200,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to underprivileged children and schools in disadvantaged areas each school year. All Office Depot retail stores in the United States and Canada donate backpacks and basic school supplies to schools serving underprivileged children, as well as nonprofit organizations, according to the company's website. These schools and organizations, in turn, distribute the backpacks and supplies to children who need them the most.

Office Depot also conducts the 5% Back to Schools program, which allows customers purchasing school supplies to designate 5% of their purchase to go toward free school supplies for a school of their choice. For more information, visit www.officedepot.com.

Loan Debt Threatens the Ranks of Attorneys Serving Children

A recent nationwide survey of children's attorneys reveals many cannot afford to enter or remain in practice representing abused and neglected children due to overwhelming student loan debt. Over two-thirds (68%) of the lawyers surveyed currently owe at least $50,000 in student loan debt, and nearly a quarter (24%) owe $75,000 or more, according to the survey conducted by the Children's Center of Los Angeles (CLC), with assistance from the American Bar Association and the National Association of Counsel for Children.

More than 300 attorneys in 43 states participated in the survey, issued by Home at Last, a national project support by the Pew Charitable Trusts to improve the foster care system.

"The survey illustrates the wide-ranging impact of student loan debt not only on the individual lawyers who seek to commit their professional talents to the needs of children, but also on the children these lawyers represent," says Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Home at Last and the CLC. "If foster youth are not adequately represented and left with no voice in court proceedings that will chart their future, we are failing to meet our most fundamental responsibilities to these children."

According to the American Bar Association, current law school graduates incur debt double that of law school graduates from just 10 years ago.

Recognizing the financial and human costs associated with student loan debt, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care recommends Congress "explore a loan forgiveness program to attract and retain competent attorneys in the dependency courts." The Commission also advocates for adequately compensating child advocates, reasonable caseloads, and enhanced training to further encourage interested attorneys to remain in the field.

Immunization Rates Continue to Climb

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the nation's childhood immunization coverage rates continue at record high levels, with about 81% of the nation's 19-35-month-old children receiving all recommended vaccinations.

The CDC recommends a base line series of vaccines for children referred to as the 4:3:1:3:3 series-four doses of Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis, three or more doses of polio vaccine, one or more doses of measles-containing vaccine, three or more doses of Hib vaccine which can prevent meningitis and pneumonia, and three doses of hepatitis B vaccine. In 2004, coverage for the 4:3:1:3:3 series increased to 81% compared to 79% in 2003, 75% in 2002, 74% in 2001, and 73% in 2000.

The CDC's 2004 National Immunization Survey also found significant increases in the percentages of young children receiving chickenpox and the childhood pneumococcal vaccine-relatively recent additions to the childhood immunization schedule. National coverage with chickenpox vaccine increased to 88% in 2004 from 85% in 2003. Coverage for the three or more doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine increased to 73% in 2004 from 68% in 2003.

In 2004, as in previous years, the CDC reports substantial variation in coverage levels among states and cities. Estimated coverage with the 4:3:1:3:3 series ranged from 89% in Massachusetts to 68% in Nevada. Among 28 urban areas, the highest estimated coverage for the 4:3:1:3:3 series was 90% for Davidson County, Tennessee, and the lowest was 65% in El Paso County, Texas.

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