Dallas Children's Health Report: Child Abuse Prominent
By BJ Austin, KERA News
Dallas, TX – A new report about children's health in Dallas County shows nearly one third live in poverty and child abuse and neglect cases increased 39% over the past decade. KERA's BJ Austin says authors of the report hope the "numbers" will be a call to action.
Dr. Timothy Bray is director of U-T-D's Institute for Urban Policy Research, which collected and analyzed the data for the new report. He says his challenge was to cull the numbers down to "how it matters" in children's lives. He says "the next biggest challenge is apathy".
Bray: Many of us don't see us. So if one in every three children lives in poverty, it's not one in three children in every neighborhood, it's three out of three children in some neighborhoods. And it's no children in others: and so many of us who would take action don't, because we don't know. We don't see it.
Bray says he suspects the recession's hard-times, had an effect on the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases in Dallas County. From 2008 to 2009, child abuse cases increased by 459 - the largest annual increase from 2000 to 2010.
Dr. Matthew Cox, child abuse pediatrics specialist at Children's Medical Center, says he sees two to three devastating head injuries each week due to child abuse. He says adults outside the home must get involved, and recalls the story of a three year old named Mark who came to Children's after a neighbor called police.
Cox: He had bruises and marks and abdominal injuries - severe injuries that without that outside person who just saw a child she was a little concerned about making a call, he probably would have died in that home.
Dr. Cox says adults need to realize that Texas is a mandatory reporting state. The law requires suspected child abuse to be reported. Failure to do so could result in a year in jail.
The report also found that 28% of Dallas County children don't have enough food. More than a third don't have their immunizations up to date, and 18% don't have private or governmental health insurance - double the national uninsured rate for children.