Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect: The Case for Funding Child Abuse Medical EvaluationsMarch 20, 2017
In 2015, 1 in 60 children in South Carolina were victims of child abuse or neglect.
This means, if you give it some thought, you likely know of a child who is a victim of abuse or neglect. That’s not a pretty thought, and I share your unease in pondering it.
But it is a reality. Child abuse and neglect is more prevalent than most pediatric conditions.
Although the mandate to investigate and prosecute child abuse and neglect lies with the state, the state does not – and cannot – accomplish this without the help of many others. In particular, the state relies upon child abuse medical providers for forensic medical evaluations of children who are suspected victims of abuse or neglect. These evaluations are investigative tools – the end result of which is legal evidence to be used in protecting the child or prosecuting the alleged perpetrator.
The importance of a high-quality child abuse evaluation cannot be overstated. It can provide the evidence needed to convict a perpetrator or initially provide authorities with sufficient reason to place a child in emergency protective custody. Or it can halt an unnecessary investigation in its tracks by proving that the child’s condition is not caused by abuse or neglect. In any scenario, the child abuse medical evaluation puts the safety and well being of the child first.
South Carolina is fortunate to have an organized, statewide medical response program for child abuse, the South Carolina Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System (SCCAMRS), led by Dr. Olga Rosa. SCCAMRS works closely with SC DSS, law enforcement, children’s advocacy centers, and others involved in addressing child abuse or neglect. SCCAMRS’s nineteen providers evaluated more than 4,000 children in 2016 for suspected abuse or neglect. As astounding as that number is, it represents less than 20 percent of the need for child abuse medical evaluations.
It also means that 80 percent of children who could have benefitted from a child abuse medical evaluation in 2016 did not receive one. Sadly, this is nothing new. SCCAMRS has never been adequately funded. Efforts by this legislative session to restore the program’s funding to 2008 levels have, to date, not been successful – even after a compelling news article, SC Shortchanging abused children, experts say, by The State’s “The Buzz” political blog team. The program’s request for an additional $650,000 seems small in comparison to the state’s $8 billion dollar budget. This relatively small amount of money will go a long way to providing services to children in need.
Please contact your state legislators to ask that they restore funding for the South Carolina Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System. You can identify and contact your legislators at the following link: http://www.scstatehouse.gov