OSWEGO, NY – April is national Child Abuse Prevention month, and Family Court Referee Thom Benedetto wants Oswego County residents to have a greater awareness of how prevalent and devastating child abuse can be both in our county and nationally.
“Most people would be surprised to hear that neglect is the number one form of child abuse in America,” Benedetto said. “When we hear the term, child abuse, we are likely to first think about physical abuse, but more children die from neglect every year than any other form of mistreatment. I’ve seen it first-hand, and it breaks your heart.”
In general, child abuse is any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, exploitation of a child, or an act or failure to act presenting an imminent risk of serious harm to a child, according the American Society for the Positive Care of Children.
“The toll is astounding for what is commonly referred to as a ‘hidden epidemic,’” Benedetto said.
In an essay for the British Broadcasting Corp., President Michael Petit of Every Child Matters Education Fund wrote: “Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.”
In Oswego County, the Department of Social Services’ Child Protective Services investigates reports of suspected abuse and maltreatment of children and the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, offers forensic interviews, medical exams and victim advocacy to mental health services.
In addition, Catholic Charities of Oswego County also offers child mental health services. (www.oswegocac.org , www.ccoswego.com and www.oswegocounty.com/dss/services.html).
According to the NY State Kids’ Well-being Indicators Clearinghouse there is a current rate of 38.3 reported abuse/maltreatment cases per 1,000 children, ages 0-17 years in Oswego County.
That’s more than double the NY State current rate of 16.2.
“Because we have such a high rate of reported cases in our county,” Benedetto said, “Our services and Family Court are, unfortunately, dealing with a high volume of abuse/maltreatment cases every day. I believe it’s critical that more people in our county are aware of the issue and the tremendous challenges facing the court, and the agencies who investigate reports of abuse and offer treatment to the victims. This month, and especially during April, it’s important for the public to educate themselves so that we are doing everything possible to meet the needs of children and families in crisis in our county. Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups. Educating ourselves so we are able to spot the signs of child abuse could help save a child from harm. Suspected incidents of child abuse should be reported to your local police department, county sheriff, or NY State Police.”