Kalamazoo County child abuse and neglect rates among worst in Michigan …
KALAMAZOO, MI – Child abuse and neglect rates in Kalamazoo County have more than doubled since 2005, according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data released Thursday, Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, Kalamazoo County ranked 49th of 82 counties in Michigan for it’s the overall child well-being based on 13 of 15 indicators, which include measures of low birthrates, abuse and neglect cases, teen pregnancies and poor prenatal car, according to the report.
The Kids Count report breaks down statistics on poverty and other measures of child well-being by county.
“We clearly see a connection between higher-income communities and better outcomes for kids, but even in more affluent counties, child poverty and the need for food assistance jumped dramatically,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the project director for Kids Count in Michigan at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “No area of the state escaped worsening conditions for children when it comes to economic security.”
While Kids Count data uses research taken prior to 2012, numbers tallied by the Catholic Charities’ Caring Network in Kalamazoo from last year show the upward trend is not backpedaling.
In 2012, Catholic Charities’ Caring Network program served more than
470 pregnant or parenting women and families. More than 90 percent of
the women were single, more than 80 percent were eligible for Medicaid
and more than half were under the age of 20.
“Clearly, both across
the state of Michigan and within Kalamazoo County itself, abuse and
neglect are on the rise,” said Laurie Schulte, of the Catholic Charities
Diocese of Kalamazoo. “Although children of all ages experience abuse
and neglect, it is the youngest children that are the most vulnerable,
with almost 32 percent of victims of child abuse and neglect being under
the age of four years.”
According to the Kids Count report released Thursday, the rate of confirmed victims of abuse and neglect increased by 56
percent in Kalamazoo County from 2005 to 2011, compared with a statewide
increase of 28 percent, according to the report. Kalamazoo had 31
victims per 1,000 children, compared with a rate of 14 per 1,000
statewide, in 2011. Only eight of Michigan’s 82 counties had higher
rates of confirmed abuse and neglect.
Patrick Naswell, executive director of the Kalamazoo County Poverty Reduction Initiative, said the issues that fuel child abuse, neglect and poverty are cyclical.
“What really struck me was the rate of increase – we’ve been increasing nearly twice of the state-wide rate,” Naswell said of the abuse and neglect figures.
“It really reinforces the need for the private and public sectors to work together to face these issues,” he said. “The loss of good jobs has made it difficult for people to keep themselves out of poverty and it becomes a long-term issue.”
Zehner-Merrell and Naswell agreed that investing in prevention instead of waiting for the risk of neglect, especially during the early childhood years is crucial. While supporting local nonprofit organizations is important, Naswell said people need to go “beyond” donations to find solutions and advocate for better policies.
“It’s getting a lot worse and it’s alarming,” Naswell said. “This is a major issue.”
Click here to read more on the Michigan Kids Count report: Rural areas also face child poverty, well-being issues