Child abuse is a persistent problem within Colusa County and the entire state. Although it is often a hidden social ill, its impact is significant, said Carissa Bowers, program manger of Colusa County Community Advocates for Parents and Children, which serves at the local Child Abuse Prevention Council.
According to a 2018 report generated by the 2017 study of statewide child abuse by Safe & Sound and the Berkeley Haas School of Business, the economic effect of child abuse is staggering, Bowers said.
“There were 305 reported child abuse victims in Colusa County in 2017,” Bowers said. “Of them, 81 reports were verified and substantiated.”
The study looked at the financial impact of the 81 verified cases of child abuse, and determined the cumulative cost to Colusa County to be $18.9 million.
“This same amount could send 2,000 kids to preschool,” Bowers said. “That is more children than we have.”
According to the report, child abuse is the underlying factor to many of the ongoing struggles in Colusa County, including a high rate of school dropout, homelessness, incarceration, and chronic health issues.
The $18.9 million is broken down to include the following:
• $4.3 million in costs for health care and mental health services because victims of childhood have a higher incidence of physical and mental health issues throughout adulthood.
• $619,856 in costs associated with the criminal justice system because abused children are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, and 28 percent are more likely to have an adult criminal record.
• $895,581 in costs associated with child welfare because victims are likely to require intervention services, foster care, and counseling.
• $1 million in education costs because abused children are 77 percent more likely to require special education.
• $12 million in lifetime productivity because victims of child abuse are more likely to be unemployed and rely on public assistance, which leads to diminish earning potential.
Although the costs are accrued over the course of a victim’s life, the community continues to incur the same costs each year until child abuse is reduced or ended, the report states.
“We need to look toward prevention rather than reactive,” Bowers said.
CAPC is a coalition of local agencies, including law enforcement, school districts, faith-based organizations, the private sector and others, who role is to spread awareness that child abuse and neglect affects every community and touches the lives of far too many children.
Bowers said the CAPC Steering Committee has developed an action plan that includes precise goals to reduce child abuse through awareness and prevention, and that the group has formed an inititive to work with Colusa County Partners for Health to help families become well and healthy.
“It is the mission of our agency that children live in a community where families thrive in a community that is safe and nurturing, and where we continue to implement programs that strengthen families and our communities,” Bowers said.
According to CAPC, healthy and safe families share five commonalities:
• Positive interaction that helps children develop to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions, and establish and maintain relationships
• An understanding of parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development.
• Manages stress and functioning when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma.
• Connects socially in positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, and spiritual support.
• Access to concrete support and services that address their needs and helps minimize stress caused by life’s challenges.
“Early identification and intervention are essential to successfully interrupting the generational cycle of abuse and neglect,” said Kent Boes, Colusa County Board of Supervisors chairman, who proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. “Collaboration among professionals, concerned parents, volunteers, and policy makers can help to reduce the level of child abuse and neglect in our communities.”
Boes said Child Abuse Prevention Month provides an excellent opportunity for all citizens to reflect on this tragic crime, while rededicating themselves to taking an active role in child abuse prevention activities in their communities. ■