Q: Who must report child abuse?
A: Any person who reasonably suspects that a child is a victim of child abuse must report this information to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, which has regional offices in Newark, East Orange and Bloomfield.
Q: Are children required to testify in court?
A: Although the courts have made certain provisions in order to make the presentation of child abuse cases easier on the victims, in most cases the child victim will be required to testify personally in the courtroom.
Q: What is the State Department of Children and Families?
A: The New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services) is the agency created by the State concerned with the welfare of children. In many child abuse cases, especially those involving family members, DCF will conduct an investigation cooperatively with the law enforcement authorities in order to ensure a child’s future safety.
Q. How serious is Child Abuse as a national problem?
A. Statistics on child victimization suggest that we are facing a national and local crisis when it comes to protecting our children. Each year in America it is estimated that:
• 1 million children are victims of abuse and neglect
• 130,000 children are sexually abused
• 2,000 children die as a result of abuse and neglect
According to an article by Samantha Levine in U.S. News and World Report (“The Price Of Child Abuse”, US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 4/9/01), the nation’s price tag for helping and protecting abused children is huge. Aside from the costs of immediate medical treatment, the effects of abuse continue long after the children have grown up, as society pays for the police, judges, medical personnel, counselors and others who must deal with the enduring scars of childhood maltreatment.
Child abuse costs this country upward of $94 billion every year, or $258 million a day. This amounts to a $1,462 annual toll for every American family, according to an analysis released by Prevent Child Abuse America, a Chicago-based group. This analysis only shows “the bare minimum of what is happening out there,” according to PCAA spokesperson Kevin Kirkpatrick, because no agency is systematically compiling data on the nation’s actual costs. The costs shown in the report are estimated using various sources of information ranging from mental healthcare and juvenile justice to the costs of building and running adult prisons and even lost productivity in the work place. But even such conservative ballpark figures are useful because they graphically illustrate how much could be saved by focusing more on prevention efforts, said David Finkelhor, a sociology professor and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Without early prevention, abused and neglected children do poorly in school, are more likely to become teen parents, and to abuse alcohol and drugs. They are also more likely to become criminals and to suffer from chronic health problems.
With a social problem this large, it seems at first surprising that good data about the cost of child abuse is generally not available. However, this is not surprising to Professor Finkelhor. Given the intense competition for severely limited resources, he points out that the highest priority must be given to treating abuse victims, not studying them.
Q. How prevalent is child abuse in Essex County?
A. Essex County suffers from a high rates of child physical and sexual abuse. In 2011 there were about 9,430 substantiated cases of child physical and sexual abuse in the State of New Jersey. About 12.3% of these cases (approximately 1,170) involved children from Essex County, representing about 1/8 of the state total (Kids Count New Jersey 2013, Association for Children of New Jersey).
Q. What is the Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center?
A. The Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center was opened in October, 2000 as an historic partnership between the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Wynona’s House not-for-profit family service organization, and the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families. This Center started at Beth Israel Hospital on Lyons Avenue in Newark and relocated in 2007 to 185 Washington St., Newark, near downtown (accessible by the NJ Transit Newark Light Rail Line and various bus lines). This facility is dedicated solely to the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect victims in Essex County. The Center represents the first co-location model in New Jersey where staff from Children’s Hospital, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency of the N.J. Department of Children and Families work together in one location. Its goal is to create a warm and non-threatening environment where the proper authorities can investigate child physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Children can receive medical care, counseling and other support services.
Services offered for children and their families include:
The Center is named for the late State Senator Wynona M. Lipman of Newark, who dedicated much of her distinguished career to protecting the rights of children. Statistics indicate there is a tremendous need for this center in Essex County. Essex suffers from one of the highest rates of child physical and sexual abuse and neglect in New Jersey. In 2011, there were 9,584 investigated cases regarding child physical and sexual abuse and neglect in Essex County. There were 1,167 substantiated cases of neglect or abuse, which represents about 12.4% of all substantiated cases in the State. (Information from Kids Count New Jersey).
The Center also provides access to state-of-the-art medical equipment, which reduces the number of emergency room visits for diagnostic medical exams and follow-up care. Therapy rooms provide an environment where children can begin healing from abuse. No offenders are brought to The Center, in keeping with its goal to create a secure environment for child abuse victims.