|NASHVILLE - During April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, those on the front lines fighting the problem in Tennessee are focusing on protecting children in light of tight budgets.
Miriam Rollin, national director of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, says Tennessee is moving in the right direction with pending legislation to improve the quality of home-visiting programs. But, she cautions, even though there hasn't been an increase in child abuse cases, the state has reason to be concerned.
"More than 9,000 children were abused and neglected in 2009. That's a very, very high number of children for a state where the population isn't huge."
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, nationwide more than 12,000 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008. Rollin is among those urging Congress to hold national hearings on child abuse, and to provide emergency funding for states that are now running short.
With $1.5 billion in federal funds set aside to fund home-visiting programs for the next five years, Rollin says states have an opportunity to find the money. There's a catch, though, she adds: States have to keep their funding at current levels to get the federal match.
"We know it works; we know these programs save more money than they cost, down the road. We've seen amazing results of cutting child abuse substantially, cutting later delinquency substantially."
Through in-home visiting programs, nurses and social workers keep in contact with poor and at-risk families to offer support and skills to prevent child abuse and neglect.
More information is available at www.everychildmatters.org.