Monday, December 29, 2008

Similar increases in abuse cases, different explanations

The Washington Post reports on a rise in the incidence of abuse and neglect in the DC area, and speculation that it is tied to the economic stresses on families:

About a month ago, Allison Jackson began to notice an increase in the number of children coming into the emergency room at Children's National Medical Center in the District with burns, broken bones, fractured skulls and injured stomachs. Puzzled, she called colleagues across the country, who told her that they, too, noticed an increase in child abuse cases.

"We are all questioning whether it's the economy and the stresses that come with a bad economy," said Jackson, who is the medical director of the hospital's Child and Adolescent Protection Center.

A similar rise in abuse cases is reported in Sweden (Sverige)...although the suggestion is that the increase there results from growing awareness and recognition.

According to Felipe Estrada at BrĂ¥ [Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention] the figures do not however indicate that child abuse is on the rise in Sweden but do indicate that there is greater transparency. "More cases are reported today than previously." Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital in Solna, outside of Stockholm, is working to develop concrete guidelines to help staff and ensure that more cases of child abuse are detected.

Of note, the article indicates the Mio group [Mio-Gruppen] at Astrid Lindgren Hospital is working to increase awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome with a project entitled "shaken baby".
Tingberg observes such abuse is often a case of ignorance or frustration among parents who don't realise how little is needed to seriously injure their baby.

Despite the increase in reports of child abuse, death remains a very rare occurrence in Sweden, with seven cases per year, and is almost never connected to a history of abuse.
And Montgomery County, Maryland is also noticing a rise in abuse, as described in this report from WTOP:
Karla Smith, a prosecutor in Montgomery County, thought that's what she was seeing when she noted the number of child abuse cases crossing her desk. She's Chief of the Family Violence Unit at the State's Attorney's Office.

But it was a recent trip to Children's Hospital that confirmed what she was thinking.

"And I ran into a couple of neurosurgeons and they were talking to me about the fact that they were seeing a significant increase in the number of cases of abusive head traumas, and that's what they refer to if we're talking about a shaken baby case or a child who's been shaken and thrown."

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