Is there an effective way to prevent child abuse and neglect that affects as many as 25 Montana children on average every week?
Stevensville Police Chief James Marble thinks so.
Chief Marble traveled to Washington D.C. last week with two other Montana law enforcement leaders to meet with the state’s three members of Congress. The law enforcement leaders offered their strong support for quality home visiting programs which they said can reduce child abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent while also cutting future crime and saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the long term.
Joining Chief Marble on Capitol Hill were Cascade County Attorney John Parker and Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon in meetings with Sen. Max Baucus, Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Representing more than 70 Montana police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and crime survivors, who belong to the anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, the three law enforcement leaders told each legislator of the latest research that nearly 1,400 Montana children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2010. Nationally, one third of all victims are younger than four years of age.
“Voluntary home visits for at-risk families can prevent many cases of abuse and neglect from ever occurring,” said Chief Marble. “These programs pair nurses or trained paraprofessionals with pregnant women and new parents to teach them how to meet their child’s health and developmental needs. The programs help new parents cope with the stresses that inevitably come with raising a new child.”
“The number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Montana is alarming, and these are only the reported cases,” said Parker. “Many incidents go unreported. We are urging our members of Congress to support quality home visiting programs, because research shows these programs are highly effective in reducing abuse and neglect in the home.”
“We want to reduce abuse and neglect not only because it poses an immediate threat to thousands of Montana children, but also because it contributes to future crime,” said Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon.
“While most survivors of childhood abuse and neglect never become violent criminals,” Nixon noted, “research has shown that approximately 29 percent more will become violent criminals than children without a history of abuse. Survivors are also more likely to abuse their own children, creating a cycle of violence that can span generations.”
The law enforcement leaders noted a study of one program model, the Nurse-Family Partnership program in upstate New York, which compared at-risk children whose mothers received visits with similar children whose families did not participate. Children in participating families were half as likely to be abused or neglected. Children in families that participated in the program had half as many criminal convictions by age 19 as those in families who did not receive the visits. In a separate study of a quality home visitation program, researchers found significantly fewer cases of childhood injury and child mortality among families who participated.
A 2011 report found that a Nurse-Family Partnership program produced almost $21,000 in NET savings per family served, the law enforcement leaders said.
“We want Congress to continue to make funding available for these worthy efforts,” said Parker.
The law enforcement leaders told the members of Congress that since the inception of the federal home visiting grant program in 2010, Montana has received nearly $5 million to implement and improve home visiting programs.