'Child Abuse Prevention is Crime Prevention'

By: Denise Wong Email
By: Denise Wong Email

RENO, NV - The numbers are startling. Ninety kids in Nevada are abused or neglected each week. That's why our local law enforcement leaders are calling for more action in the form of funding from state lawmakers.

"I am convinced that we have a serious problem here," says Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley at the Washoe County Sheriff's Office.

Tuesday morning, he stood with Reno Police Chief Steve Pitts to take a stand against child abuse and neglect. They highlighted a report by the anti-crime organization, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, that showed just how bad our problem is here in Nevada.

"This report is pretty damning," says Sheriff Haley. "This report says: Nevada you have a problem. You're last in the nation on many indicators of protecting our juveniles and we need to step it up."

According to the report, in 2010, more than 4,600 kids in the state suffered from child abuse or neglect.

"They often have broken bones. Sometimes, they're burned," says Sheriff Haley.

Experts say this kind of abuse often happens in families where new parents have trouble coping with the stress of raising a child. That's why Sheriff Haley and Chief Pitts are advocating for more outreach programs like voluntary home visits. But they can't do it without continued state funding.

"Well, right now we're going to concentrate on, like the sheriff said, getting some legislative support because that's where the power is in the state," says Chief Pitts. "And Senator Harry Reid and the Governor have been briefed on this."

Kevin Schiller, director of Washoe County Social Services, says we have made some headway in recent years. The number of kids placed in Foster Care as a result of abuse is down.

"We're averaging about 600 to 700 children in foster care," says Schiller. "We averaged over 1,000 five years ago."
And he says it's because of prevention programs and policy changes. But in order to keep improving, he agrees with other local leaders that we need to ensure more funding.

"A pound of prevention is worth ten pounds of cure. So we need to keep funding prevention so we don't go into a system where we're reacting. We want to be proactive," says Schiller.

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