The US Administration for Children and Families reports that an estimated 683,000 children are the victims of abuse of neglect each year in the United States. What does abuse look like? What should you do if you suspect abuse? A discussion with Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children's Alliance
Traynham: The U.S. Administration for Children and Families reported nearly 1,700 children died from abuse and neglect in this country in 2015, and nearly 700,000 kids are abused in the United States near year. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me to discuss the scope of child abuse is Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children´s Alliance. Teresa, welcome to the program.
Huizar: Thanks, Robert.
Traynham: I wish we were here to talk about brighter circumstances.
Huizar: I know.
Traynham: But the numbers that I just mentioned a few moments ago just break my heart. Walk me through those numbers. Let´s put a human face to those numbers. What does that look like?
Huizar: Well, first of all, I think it´s important to think about this as a public health crisis.
Huizar: And when you think about the fact that, you know, recent flu numbers -- which it´s been tragic and in the news a lot -- that 30,000 people have had the flu and 63 children have died, compare that to these numbers around child abuse. It´s just shocking. I think most people really have a hard time understanding the scope of the problem, that it involves 700,000 children as abused each year and 1,700 that have actually died from that abuse.
Traynham: And, Teresa, I think I can say this on solid footing -- almost all of those are preventable.
Huizar: Absolutely. We really believe that, if we intervene early and we strengthen families, those can be prevented.
Traynham: So, let´s talk about this, and pardon my ignorance for the question. I think most people can wrap their heads around what abuse looks like and what that feels like. Walk me through neglect. What does that look like? What does that feel like? How do you look for signs of abuse and neglect?
Huizar: Sure. Well, I think that with neglect, we need to remember that there are different forms of neglect. So it could be things like medical neglect -- when you have the ability to provide medical care that a child needs, but fail to provide it and they can worsen, become even more ill, and pass away from that. I think it can also be educational neglect, where a parent is capable of making sure their child gets to school and doesn´t do that to the point that the child´s life is really impacted and they´re not able to learn. And then there´s the type of neglect that really is about a lack of supervision that they´re able to provide but don´t, and that could be things like not just physical supervision, like a small child allowed to run out in the street and be run over by a car or something, but it could also be things like being capable of providing food or other forms of care and not doing that. So, you know, there have been some of these cases in the news that I think have been sort of the shocking end of that extreme of late, as well.
Traynham: Teresa, for a parent, a teacher, a neighbor, a loved one -- anyone that´s concerned, what is the call to action? Is it calling 911? Is it educating yourself about what neglect and abuse could look like? I guess my question is, is how can we help and what can we do to bring that number down to zero, both numbers?
Huizar: Sure. I think the first thing is believing that it´s your job to do something. I think the greatest barrier in preventing child abuse is that many people feel very reluctant to take action.
Traynham: Yes. Do they turn a blind eye sometimes?
Huizar: I think sometimes they don´t want to believe that a neighbor or a friend or relative could be doing this, but I think the other thing is they may not know the signs of abuse, and so they may not recognize right away without a child explicitly saying that they´re abused that something is concerning.
Traynham: Let me pause here for a second. What if the child doesn´t know that they´re being abused? What if the child doesn´t have a voice, literally and figuratively? How do you mitigate that?
Huizar: Right. Well, it´s our job to be that voice, I think, and to make sure that we´re proactively identifying those areas of concern. Many times, you see a newspaper report or a media report of a case of abuse, and don´t the neighbors always say, "Well, I had some concern. I always thought something wasn´t quite right"? Our feeling is, if you have that concern, that feeling that something´s not quite right, it´s imperative to make a report, to call your local law enforcement or local Child Protective Services and just run the situation by them. You don´t have to absolutely know abuse has occurred. You just have to have a suspicion that it has. And if you suspect that it has, run it by a professional who can answer that question for you.
Traynham: You know, this sounds overly trite, Teresa, but, you know, when you go to the airport or train station, you see that sign, you know, "If you see something, say something"? It sounds like here your gut, your intuition, you know, whatever you may see, it´s almost like you have a moral obligation to say something.
Huizar: You do. I think that all adults have the responsibility to protect the children of their community, not just their own children, but all children. You´re responsible for all the children in your life.
Traynham: Teresa Huizar, thank you very much for coming out. I wish we were here to talk about even brighter topics. But thank you for enlightening us for the last five minutes.
Huizar: Thank you for having me.
Traynham: And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham.