Isabella County child abuse rates jumped following state trend

Isabella County is following the statewide trend of an increase in child abuse and neglect with a 40-percent jump in the past decade.

Michigan has jumped 34 percent in the past decade because of family stress associated with poverty, according to an annual Kids Count in Michigan report.

In Michigan, 32,500 children were confirmed as victims of abuse and neglect with four out of five children suffering from neglect in 2010.

The report said poverty is a threat to children, as they may experience hunger, abuse, neglect, extreme stress, depression or anxiety. The rate of children living in extreme poverty, which is defined as a household income of less than $11,000 a year in a family of four, jumped from 5 to 11 percent.

Mark Stevens, Isabella County director of the Department of Human Services, said normally bad economic times put substantial stress on families.

“The increase (of child neglect and abuse) in Isabella County was higher than the state,” he said.

There are measures and programs being done to address the issue of abuse and neglect, Stevens said.

“In the last year, there were 800 child welfare staff to address the problem,” he said.

Statewide, half of public school children qualify for free and reduced lunches, a 36-percent jump from 2006.
Food Service Manager Scott Jayne said as of December, 39 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunches in the district of Mount Pleasant.

The departments have responded by food assistance and medical relief. They have also expanded the family preservation funding in areas of the state with need, Stevens said.

“We have also provided families in Isabella County access to Michigan Works that helps (them) find jobs,” he said.

As the economy gets better, abuse and neglect rates decrease, he said.

“It’s very important we do well … Michigan is trying to turn the corner on that,” he said.

Studies have found that a family income of at least $44,226 is considered 200 percent above poverty and assistance is not needed, according to the report.

Although the abuse and neglect rate has jumped, the findings were not all negative. There were fewer births to teens, fewer teen deaths and fewer high school dropouts.

There was also a small improvement in the infant mortality rate between 2000 and 2009.


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