Child abuse in the United States is a significant problem. In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations. Almost five children die every day as a result of abuse; 3 out of 4 are 4 years old or younger. It is estimated that 1 out of 5 girls and 1 out of 7 boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday. 90% report being sexually abused by someone that they know and 68% report being abused by a family member. Over 60% of patients in substance abuse treatment centers report being sexually victimized as children. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. The estimated annual cost for child abuse and neglect in the United States for year 2007 was $104 billion. All statistics from http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics/.
In Wyoming, by statute, all counties are required to have a Child Protection Team (CPT) that serves the purpose of tracking and monitoring cases where abuse has taken place. In Teton County, our CPT meets weekly with many collaborating agencies including the School District, County Attorney’s Office, Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center, Teton County Victim Services, Department of Family Services and the Hirschfield Center. As a team, we discuss cases and try to ensure that child victims are receiving the most appropriate services, however our vision is much larger.
Through the Hirschfield Center we facilitate mandatory reporting and child abuse trainings to Teton County schools, day care facilities, Teton County Parks and Recreation as well as church groups. Through this approach of educating professionals in the community that spend significant amounts of time with children, we hope to identify kids where ‘something just doesn’t seem quite right.’ Sometimes these children have experienced abuse or perhaps there is a budding mental health issue, but the goal remains the same: provide early intervention.
Through the Hirschfield Center’s Family Advocate Project, we will complete a comprehensive family assessment, write a report and make recommendations for the family. These families come to the Hirschfield Center through a number of different channels including Department of Family Services, the Counseling Center, the Court System, School District or self referral. We will work with a family on a number of different issues including parenting education, appropriate consequences and structure for their household, and counseling and referrals to appropriate community agencies. Our advocates will often spend over 2 hours per week with a Hirschfield Center client in order to assist in helping the family function at a higher level.