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Union County child abuse rates drop, still high in comparison

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 11:01 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 11:48 a.m. CST

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Union County’s child abuse rate dropped during the summer months, but the rate is still high in comparison to numbers across the state.

While still prevalent in society, the number of children abused across the state of Iowa has dropped from 13,288 in 2003 to 11,637 in 2012.

“Child abuse, it knows no economic boundaries, or educational boundaries,” said Paul Ver Meer, Creston police chief. “It can occur anywhere.”

Union County

Tim Kenyon, Union County attorney, said 47 incidents of child abused were referred to Department of Human Services in July from Union County. Since then, the numbers have dropped. Kenyon said 30 were reported in August, 28 in September and six so far in October.

Kenyon receives the reports, but only after investigation are they dubbed unconfirmed, confirmed or founded.

“If John Doe calls in a complaint to the hotline, it goes to the Department of Human Services,” said Kenyon. “DHS has a preliminary intake. They do screenings, they do certain things as far a report that comes in. I receive a copy of all those that come in.”

However, Ver Meer said child abuse cases are not very common, but if there are any, Creston Police Department works with DHS.

The majority of incidents in Union County request no action be taken because they are unconfirmed, which means child abuse or neglect did not occur. Union County had 133 unconfirmed incidents reported in 2012.

There were nine confirmed cases, which means the abuse was minor, isolated and unlikely to happen again.

But, 60 incidents in 2012 were founded, which means there was child abuse taking place and the person was most likely filed on a child abuse registry.

The incidents reported in 2012 totaled 202. However, the reports do not take into account how many children were addressed with each report.

“Most of the ones I get are not confirmed and not founded,” Kenyon said. “If it is a founded report, then at that point Department of Human Services is talking about some kind of action.”

Drug correlation

While one possiblity of less child abuse cases during the fall could be because children are at school, another possibility for the drop is drugs.

Kenyon said law enforcement arrested a number of people in spring and early summer on drug-related charges.

“So, I’m hopeful that we disrupted the drug traffic to a degree that the spinoff effect of that was that there are not quite as many drugs around,” said Kenyon. “If there aren’t quite as many drugs around, they’re real hard to get. And so, people aren’t using maybe as much, and since they’re not using as much, we don’t have the circumstances where kids are being neglected as much.”

However, no studies have been done to find any correlation between drug use and child abuse.

Child abuse

Child abuse rears its head in many different ways, not just physically. According to the website of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, some forms of abuse include neglect, failure to provide appropriate food and clothing, sexual abuse and mental injury.

“Our goal is the reduction the of child abuse,” said Ver Meer. “So, we find funding for services for them.”

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, www.pcaiowa.org, is one website with information on child abuse across the state. There are also local organizations that focus on children in abusive situations, such as Decat, which is a child welfare decategorization project.

Decat was created to bring funding in at the community level for children in need. This means the community has a say in what programs are being provided to the community for children.

The Child Abuse Prevention Council is also a local program to prevent child abuse.

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