Every five hours a child dies from abuse or neglect in the US.
The latest government figures show an estimated 1,770 children were killed as a result of maltreatment in 2009.
A recent congressional report concludes the real number could be nearer 2,500.
In fact, America has the worst child abuse record in the industrialised world. Why?
Sixty-six children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in the industrialised world. Twenty-seven of those die in the US – the highest number of any other country.
Even when populations are taken into account, Unicef research from 2001 places the US equal bottom with Mexico on child deaths from maltreatment.
In Texas, one of the states with the worst child abuse records, the Dallas Children’s Medical Center is dealing with rising incidences of serious non-accidental injuries in children.
Emma Thompson was just four years old when she was beaten to death in 2009. Her injuries included broken ribs, a bloodied lip, widespread bruising and a fractured skull. She had also been raped.
Her mother and her mother’s partner have been jailed over the abuse. But Emma’s father, Ben, believes his daughter was let down by everyone around her.
Just like Emma Thompson, hundreds more children fall through the cracks of the child protection system.
Some blame overworked investigators and inefficient management, while others say it’s the federal government’s drive to keep families together that is the problem.
But child protection officials in Texas, a state with one of the highest total number of child deaths from abuse and neglect in the US, say such cases are complicated and difficult to assess – especially when a child’s guardians are hiding the truth.
In Washington, politicians are beginning to recognise what some now describe as a “national crisis”.
A congressional hearing in July heard from experts in the field about what can be done to prevent deaths from child abuse. A national commission is being set up to coordinate a country-wide response.
Many believe home visits to new parents by qualified health professionals, preparing them for the difficulties of family life, are key to that strategy.
While child abuse blights the lives of victims’ families, its devastating impact is felt far beyond relatives and friends.
Abused children are 74 times more likely to commit crimes against others and six times more likely to maltreat their own children, according to the Texas Association for the Protection of Children.
For this reason, experts believe it is in the US government’s as well as society’s interest to ensure children are protected from abuse. Each and every citizen, they say, has a responsibility to protect vulnerable children within their community.
* Taken from a BBC investigation by Natalia Antelava investigates, published in 2011.
How Can You Help?
Contact your representative, tell them how concerned you are about the safety of America’s most vulnerable citizens, and ask them what is being done to better protect them.
Join the Million March Against Child Abuse! MACA is a non-partisan, grass roots, nationwide effort, to UNITE ALL Child Advocates together in solidarity for peaceful demonstrations against crimes against children in the U.S. on April 22, 2013
List of cities registered for demonstrations. If YOUR STATE is not registered, YOU can organize a march there:
Alaska – Fairbanks (and surrounding areas),
California – Fresno, Solono, Napa, Visalia, Bakersfield, Covina
Georgia – Atlanta,
Idaho – Boise, Idaho Falls,
Illinois – Algonquin,
Kentucky – Paducah,
Michigan – Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Flint, Baycity
Mississippi – New Albany,
Missouri – Kansas City,
Nevada – Reno, Las Vegas, Carson City,
New York – Rochester,
North Carolina – Charlotte,
South Carolina – Myrtle Beach, Conway, Spartenburg
Ohio – Xenia,
Oklahoma – Sayre, Elk City,
Oregon – Portland, Salem, Grant Pass,
South Carolina – Myrtle Beach, Conway
Texas – El Paso,
Utah – Salt Lake City,
Virginia – Virginia Beach,
Washington – Olympia, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver
West Virginia, Huntington
Wyoming – Riverton,