We must protect our childrenPublished 8:45pm Monday, April 1, 2013
Last year, our leadership in the Alabama Legislature decided to “right-size” our government by reducing the budget drastically for the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Program from nearly $250,000 to only $50,000. The Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention is a vital state agency because it is the only state agency that works to prevent abuse and neglect before it happens.
In Alabama, the number of children reported as abused and neglected has risen tremendously over the past few years. According to the Child Welfare League of America, Alabama had 20,159 total referrals for child abuse and neglect since 2010. Of those, 19,900 reports were referred for investigation.
Our children’s safety is too important to ignore. It is a shame there have been reports of over 20,000 cases of abuse, not to mention the probability of thousands more that are not reported. Our state legislature should be ashamed if we cut funding for our only state agency that would increase the protection and welfare of the children of Alabama.
As it happens, the month of April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. It is a time to raise awareness about the seriousness of this problem how we can prevent abuse and neglect.
To that end, Democrats in the Legislature are working very hard to preserve state funding for the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. All Alabama children have the right and deserve to be safe, and there is no excuse for not making their safety our priority.
As a part of our push to make children’s safety a priority, Democrats in the state legislature have filed multiple bills that would provide greater security at our public schools. Unfortunately, our legislation to provide school resources officers has not been brought out of legislative committee, and legislation to create a volunteer school security force was vetoed by the governor.
In 2010 alone, which is the most recent year that information is available, 9,586 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Alabama. That is an increase of 15.6 percent over the previous year, which comes to about 8.5 out of every 1,000 children in Alabama. Of these children, 37.6 percent were neglected, 50 percent were physically abused and 22.5 percent were sexually abused.
We cannot turn our backs on these children. We must do everything we can to stop the abuse and neglect, and that means we have to adequately fund the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. What the state is budgeting is barely enough to hire one employee, let alone provide any kind of service.
Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community. This is why Democrats in the state legislature are fighting to make sure our state government does not fail these children.
As state leaders return to Montgomery for the second half of the legislative session, we must make funding the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention one of our top priorities.
We cannot rely solely on private donations and federal money to fund these vital programs. If we cannot agree to make our children a priority, then what are we doing in Montgomery?