NORWICH – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to promote awareness and outreach for children who are abused either physically or sexually, maltreated or neglected.
In Chenango County, child abuse is all too prevalent. Of the 62 counties in New York State, Chenango ranks fifth in the number of child abuse instances - a concern at the forefront for Chenango’s team of physical and mental health professionals, law enforcement and crime victim advocates.
According to Mike Middaugh, director of the Chenango County Child Advocacy Center (CAC), Chenango County’s ranking is based on percentage, meaning the actual number of child abuse cases may not top those of more metropolitan areas, but there are more cases per capita, which is equally alarming.
“We have been aggressive at looking at these child abuse complaints very closely,” Middaugh said. The CAC is just one component of a team that also includes: Chenango Head Start; the Perinatal Network; Bassett Healthcare, Tri Town Health Centers and UHS Chenango Memorial; the Office of the District Attorney; Chenango County Department of Social Services; Chenango Public Health and Mental Health departments; and the Catholic Charities Crime Victims Program. “All of us have a place at the table and all have a role in preventing child abuse.”
The number of child abuse claims have climbed steadily in the last two years. In 2011, the CAC handled a total 100 cases of abuse. That number jumped to 142 last year; a 42 percent increase. And if trends heeded by the CAC continue for 2013, Middaugh predicts the number of claims to increase again by the end of the year.