Americans may be growing tired of being bombarded with strings of statistics showing an increase in child abuse, according to a national expert on child abuse and neglect.
"It seems to me we've been on more than a decade of public awareness of this problem. I sense the country is losing patience. Maybe that's not the right word. As a society we suffer Attention Deficit Disorder," said Dr. Richard Krugman, dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado and director of the C. Henry Kempe National Center on Child Abuse.Krugman was the keynote speaker Thursday at a two-day conference sponsored by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Ogden. The conference concluded Friday at Weber State University.
Child abuse will only be successfully tackled when policymakers come up with programs that are "comprehensive, neighborhood-based, child-centered and family-focused," he said.
"Throwing more money in and giving more workers is not going to help."
Instead, Krugman said, human-service programs should provide home visitation to every family that can use it. That means everybody.
Child abuse crosses all boundaries of race, religion and economics. Sometimes it just depends on circumstance. "Even low-risk parents have high-risk days," according to Krugman.
His "modest proposal" includes not waiting for the federal government to provide funding. It calls for strengthened treatment programs, improved government involvement, a meaningful public-awareness campaign and - most important - Americans must "reorient the social values that contribute to abuse" with "focused efforts to try to rebuild the types of values this country was settled on."
Prevention is the key. "We need to make it as easy (for families) to pick up the phone to get help before as it is for neighbors to pick up the phone and get help after."
The best place to look for money for meaningful child-protection reform is the "trillion-dollar health-care system."
Krugman told several hundred advocates, social workers, health-care professionals and clergy that child abuse is nothing new. In Sigmund Freud's time, about 150 years ago, a treatise was written on the infections suffered by children who had been sexually abused.
In 1961, the first incident study at the University of Colorado Medical School led researchers to believe that close to 800 children were abused nationally. Abuse was seldom reported because "we had a huge tolerance for the physical abuse of children."
In 1970, 60,000 children were reported abused or neglected. A decade later, the American Humane Association estimated 669,000 cases.
Last year, 3 million abuse reports were made and 1.2 million were substantiated.
"We're now dealing with a problem that affects 2.5 percent of all American children," Krugman said. "It's a huge problem that requires a huge delivery system."
Until former Health and Human Services Director Louis Sullivan took the lid off, officials were unwilling to publicly acknowledge the problem, according to Krugman.