In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse began as a Virginia grandmother's tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse. The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country, and many wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse. In other communities, special fundraisers are held to support prevention activities and treatment facilities for victims, and candlelight vigils are held as a remembrance. Most recently, the focus has shifted to a more positive message of celebrating "blue ribbon" individuals, organizations, and communities that have done much to prevent child abuse and neglect. Once again, the NACC is acknowledging this campaign and encourage you to do the same.
It is important to note that although the United States is considered one of the wealthiest countries in the world, when it comes to child well-being, we are failing. Out of the 21 richest nations in the world, the U.S. ranked 20th out of 21 on overall child well-being.
In 2009, U.S. state and local child protective services investigated 3.3 million reports of children being abused or neglected and 763,000 children (9.3 per 1,000) were identified as victims of child maltreatment.
Child fatalities are the most tragic consequence of maltreatment. Yet, each year children continue to die from abuse and neglect. Based on state reported data, a nationally estimated 1,770 children died from abuse and neglect. This means the overall rate of child fatalities was 2.34 deaths per 100,000 children.
Societal costs are skyrocketing as a consequence of the United States' continued failure to adequately address child well-being issues. An estimated $69 billion is spent annually on costs associated with juvenile and adult criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Such costs may also include loss of productivity due to unemployment and underemployment, the cost of special education services, and increased use of the health care system.
Much research has been done about the possible consequences of child abuse and neglect. The effects vary depending on the circumstances of the abuse or neglect, personal characteristics of the child, and the child's environment. Consequences may be mild or severe; disappear after a short period or last a lifetime; and affect the child physically, psychologically, behaviorally, or in some combination of all three ways. Ultimately the related costs absorbed by our health care, human services, and educational systems, impact not just the child and family, but society as a whole.
Despite prevention efforts, abuse in its various forms does occur and millions of children are the subject of judicial proceedings each year. The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) is concerned that these proceedings produce justice for children and their parents.
NACC promotes justice for these children and their families through:
- The Child Welfare Law Specialization Program that certifies attorneys as Child Welfare Law Specialists. The performance of well trained and knowledgeable attorneys in this complex and challenging area of law has a direct impact on the lives of children and families. Children at risk of harm may not get adequate protection and parents in need of services may not get them without the advocacy of those who understand the system, the laws, and how they work.
- Trainings including an Annual National Conference that promote education and skills training for attorneys and other multi-disciplinary professionals who work in what is one of the most important areas of the law because children and their families are extraordinarily vulnerable at this point in their lives.
- The National Resource Center that serves families seeking attorney referrals and serves attorneys and other multi-disciplinary professionals seeking technical assistance and other information about child welfare issues and practice.
- Policy and Legal Advocacy that promote systems change to ensure that state child protection systems appropriately respond to reports of abuse, investigate allegations, and intervene in family relationships when appropriate and necessary.
We must continue to raise the public's awareness about this issue and its costs to all of us. You can do so by joining the NACC in wearing blue ribbons during the month of April to honor those children who have died from abuse and neglect and to celebrate those who have worked (and continue to work) to prevent this crisis.
You can also support the NACC in our efforts to ensure that every child has qualified and effective legal counsel in child welfare related matters. Consider a membership or a donation now.
Become an NACC Member NOW
All donations of $25 or more will receive an NACC blue awareness ribbon lapel pin as our thanks to you.
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