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Report: More than 90 kids in Nevada abused or neglected every week



Local law enforcement leaders took a stand against child abuse and neglect Tuesday, releasing a new report called “Breaking the Cycle” from the anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley and Reno Chief of Police Steve Pitts and other leaders released data showing that at least 4,600 children in Nevada suffered abuse or neglect in 2010—almost 90 every week. Deadly abuse and neglect also claimed the lives of 15 Nevada children.

Sheriff Haley and Chief Pitts raised their concerns at a news conference held today at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. The report emphasized the benefits of voluntary home visiting services, which help new parents cope with the stresses of raising a young child. Research shows that quality home visiting programs can cut child abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent, significantly reduce later crime and save taxpayers money. The leaders thanked Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the United States Senate, for his past support and urged him to protect and expand federal funding for evidence-based home visiting services proven to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The group released a letter signed by over 1,560 law enforcement leaders nationwide, one for every child who died from abuse or neglect in 2010, urging Congress to support funding for home visiting. They also called on Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and state legislators to protect the state’s investment in home visiting services to help reduce child abuse and neglect and later crime and to continue to improve the quality of those programs.

“Law enforcement experience tells us that child abuse and neglect spur future crime and violence. Case after case shows us that it’s a cycle of abuse and violence we’re seeing, sometimes across several generations,” Sheriff Haley said. “If we provide resources to the most high-risk families, we can help break that cycle and prevent abuse before it occurs. Public safety professionals agree that home visiting can help protect kids, stop crime and save us money in the long run.”

Not only do many incidents of child abuse and neglect constitute crimes, but child maltreatment also contributes to additional crime and violence. While most survivors of childhood abuse and neglect never become violent criminals, research shows that children who are abused or neglected are nearly 30 percent more likely to become violent criminals. This equates to about 185 individuals in Nevada who would not have become violent criminals if not for the abuse or neglect they endured. Survivors are also more likely to abuse their own children, creating a cycle of violence that can span generations.

Several home visiting programs currently operate in the Washoe County area; including the federally funded Early Head Start at the University of Nevada, as well as Washoe County Health District’s Home Visitation Program, which provides nurse home visits to pregnant mothers and parents of young children.

A study of one program model, the Nurse-Family Partnership program, compared at-risk children whose mothers received visits with similar children whose families were not served. Children in participating families were half as likely to be abused or neglected. By age 15, youth whose families did not participate in the program had more than twice as many arrests. One site of the quality nurse home visitation program found significantly fewer cases of childhood injury and child mortality among families who participated. Nurse-Family Partnership operates a program in Clark County, Nev.

“Many of us know about the cases of severe child abuse and neglect in our area: the 3-year-old allegedly punished with ice-cold baths or the toddler who sustained deadly physical injuries and went into cardiac arrest due to severe child abuse and battery at the hands of her own mother’s boyfriend. It’s tragic, and we need to act,” Chief Pitts said. “These cases underscore the vital importance of education and prevention as the key to stop child abuse before it occurs, and that’s why we are here in support of funding for voluntary home visiting.”

The direct taxpayer costs alone of paying for child abuse and neglect in Nevada are huge. In fiscal year 2006, the total cost from federal, state and local child welfare spending reached over $100 million. By reducing child abuse and neglect and later crime and other negative outcomes, evidence-based home visiting programs are highly cost-effective. Analysis from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy showed that the Nurse-Family Partnership program produced a net savings of almost $13,000 for each family served. However, only evidence-based programs can realize such returns so the report calls on states to ensure public investments are directed to those services and to evaluate promising programs that lack strong evidence to confirm they deliver desired results.

“I’ve long believed that even one case of child abuse, neglect or endangerment is too many, let alone the 4,600 Nevada had in 2010,” said Washoe County District Attorney Richard A. Gammick, who was unable to attend the event, but issued a statement in support. “We can’t stop it everywhere, but the research shows that voluntary home visitation can prevent up to half of child maltreatment. I’m proud to support this effort to ensure a safe and healthy start for every Nevada child.”

Nevada was awarded $1.1 million from the federal home visiting program in fiscal year 2011. The federal legislation requires that federal dollars supplement existing state home visiting spending, not replace it. Nevada must maintain the same level of state spending to remain eligible for federal funding. This requirement makes it even more crucial that Nevada, at a minimum, maintain existing funding for its state programs.

In the letter delivered to Senator Reid and all members of Congress, over 1,560 members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids agreed, “America can and must do more to prevent child abuse and neglect. From a fiscal, moral and public safety perspective, we have an obligation to invest in home visiting and protect children from the harm caused by abuse and neglect.”

Sheriff Haley, Chief Pitts and District Attorney Gammick are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors, including 25 in Nevada. Learn more and read the report at www.fightcrime.org/

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office celebrated 150 years of proud service and community partnership in 2011. Sheriff Michael Haley is the 25th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County. His office continues to be the only full service public safety agency operating within northern Nevada and is responsible for operating the consolidated detention facility, regional crime lab, Northern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, court security, service of civil process, traditional street patrols and Regional Animal Services.

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