A recent article in the Las Vegas Review Journal dealing with the staffing shortfalls at Child Haven, Clark County’s shelter for abused and neglected children, prompted me to do some further research. What I found was disturbing. Pictures of babies and older children, who never chose to be born, whose lives were cut short in cruel and despicable ways. Stories about parents abandoning their children at Emergency Rooms in Nebraska because of an oversight in the state’s safe haven law that allowed parents to leave children of all ages at a safe place, like a hospital, without fear of prosecution. Before the law was changed, one father walked into a hospital and left nine children, ages 1 to 17, behind alleging he was overwhelmed since the death of his wife after the birth to his youngest son.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2012, an estimated 686,000 children were victims of maltreatment. Of these child victims, 78 percent were victims of neglect; 18 percent of physical abuse; 9 percent of sexual abuse; and 11 percent were victims of other types of maltreatment. Since many instances of child abuse go unreported, this number may be far higher than highlighted in these statistics. Not surprisingly, four-fifths (or 80.3 percent) of the perpetrators were parents between the ages of 18 and 44 years.
The CDC has identified some of the individual risk factors that contribute to these alarming facts and figures: lack of parenting skills; a parent’s history of maltreatment as a child; substance abuse and/or mental health issues; parental characteristics such as young age, lack of education, single parenthood, a large number of dependent children, and low income; and non-biological, transient caregivers in the home. Family risk factors include social isolation and family disorganization, dissolution and violence.
Is it any wonder why people advocate so passionately for the strengthening of the family unit or for abstinence or the use of birth control? The idea reproduction is a right rather than a privilege and a responsibility is an ill-conceived notion that has led to hundreds of thousands of children who have been abandoned, abused and even killed at the hands of the people who should protect and nourish them and fight for their futures.
In addition to the human misery it causes, there’s an economic cost to fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment. According to data quoted by the CDC, in the United States, the economic burden of child maltreatment is substantial — the lifetime cost of nonfatal abuse in 2010 was $210,012 per victim which included childhood health care costs, adult medical costs, productivity losses, child welfare costs, criminal justice costs and special education costs. The estimated average lifetime cost was $1,272,900 per death largely due to the loss of future productivity.
In the words of religious leader James E. Faust, “To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children.” This may mean feeding your family before purchasing that wide screen television. It may mean declining an invitation to go drinking after work in favor of helping your child with his or her homework. It may also mean not having children at all or at least delaying the event until you’re emotionally and financially prepared to raise them in a safe and nurturing environment.
In the words of Dr. Lisa Campo-Engelstein from Albany Medical College, “Acknowledging the relationship between quality of life and harm enables us to think more critically about responsible reproduction.”
Shelly Aldean is a former member of the Carson City Board of Supervisors and a local business owner.