By editorial board • 

County leading the way in battling child abuse

There was plenty to absorb in April, as agencies throughout the nation held events and gave interviews in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month. 

Even one case of abuse or neglect against our society’s most vulnerable members is too many. And according to the most recent data from Children First of Oregon, Yamhill County has a rate of 5.1 abuse and neglect victims per 1,000 kids, which is a long way from zero.

However, that’s actually a number local agencies can take some pride in.

Yamhill County has the lowest rate of abuse and neglect in the state. In fact, its abuse rate is only about half the state average.

That figure was achieved despite financial stability factors like childhood poverty and food insecurity hovering around state averages.

“It’s a reflection of multiple agencies in Yamhill County choosing to support children and families,” said Elaine Burke, director of A Family Place relief nursery. “Obviously, anything greater than zero represents room for improvement. But it seems like April, as Child Abuse Prevention Month, is a great time to celebrate the successes we’ve achieved as a county.”

It takes a multi-faceted approach to combat child abuse.

Juliette’s House in McMinnville fills the disheartening but inspirational role of caring for victims of abuse. Not only is it important to meet the immediate needs of abused children, but also offer them a greater chance for long-term recovery.

Safe Horizon, the largest nonprofit victim services agency in the country, says one-third of abused and neglected children will grow up to be abusers themselves — a sobering statistic. And additional figures from the agency describe further ramifications on society from child abuse.

Victims are 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy, 80 percent more likely to develop at least one psychiatric disorder by adulthood, 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile and 30 percent more likely to commit a violent crime.

Curbing that generational cycle of abuse and crime is a major challenge. But we obviously have models that lead to progress, such as A Family Place.

The more heinous acts of physical harm and sexual abuse stick in our minds, but, as noted in a feature story last week in the News-Register, cases of neglect are more prevalent and perhaps equally harmful.

You may have noticed an abundance of marketing for the diaper drive that wrapped up last week, and perhaps heard of President Obama’s campaign for more diapers. It’s enlightening to think that something so conceivably simple can make a major difference in battling child abuse and neglect.

But in fact, leaving a child in a dirty diaper all day puts stress on the child during a critical phase of development.

The measuring stick of child abuse prevention begins with perception.

Yamhill County has a strong network of agencies and organizations that understand child abuse is more than just bad parents battling demons. Other factors, like ignorance and poverty, can be battled through education and community support.

It was nice to honor those agencies during the month of April, but they deserve our recognition year-round. They’ve earned it.


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