Child abuse: West Virginia must make a change

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A report from Charleston last week indicated at least one Bureau of Children and Families official believes cases of child abuse are on the rise in West Virginia. Nearly 5,000 children are under state custody, which means the task for case workers gets a little more difficult every day. Last year, the bureau got more than 39,000 referrals about child abuse alone.

Among the factors contributing to those numbers are increased economic struggles, increased drug abuse and, surprisingly, the blurring line between parental discipline and abuse.

Nancy Exline, commissioner of children and families at the Bureau of Children and Families, told another publication, “There’s a very fine line between what a parent can do to correct their children and what becomes abuse and quite frankly, that’s why things have to be assessed.”

Child Protective Services workers are charged with that assessment. Despite their best efforts, there were still several fatal cases of abuse in West Virginia last year. There are no easy solutions.

But when parents and guardians are increasingly intentionally inflicting physical, mental and emotional injury on the children in their care, it shines a spotlight very brightly on the consequences of many of the other struggles to which officials have failed to find a solution.

Clean, sober and financially secure adults are far less likely to stoop to abuse and neglect of a child than those cracking under the strain of poverty and addiction. Officials talk regularly about our children as our future – people for whom we have to make sure things are looking bright … someday.

West Virginia’s abused and neglected children need help and answers NOW. If turning the tide of mounting abuse and neglect numbers is not incentive enough to get down to business, nothing will change.

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