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Greene County Continues to Receive Failing Grade for Child Abuse

Greene County has the highest number of child abuse and neglect cases among the state’s 114 counties, according to new data. The figures come from the latest Kids Count report. Several organizations continue to look into why this is a consistent problem in Greene County. KSMU’s Theresa Carter reports.

The problem of child abuse and neglect in Greene County is not a new one. Yet each year, local organizations struggle to figure out why this county’s child abuse rates are among the worst in the state. Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA works with abused and neglected children through the court system. Dan Prater is spokesperson with CASA of Southwest Missouri.

"Greene County received a failing grade on the area of child abuse and neglect. And out of 114 counties, we rank at the very bottom." Prater said.

In the past, there have been studies focusing on the cause of abuse. These studies have examined issues such as drug or alcohol use, poverty, lack of education, as well as general perceptions of what is appropriate behavior towards children. Although the issue of poverty and its associated problems exist all over the country, Prater says Greene County in particular seems to have ongoing struggles with these issues.

Prater says child abuse statistics are not based merely on calls made to the abuse hotline.

" This category (child abuse and neglect) is the number of child abuse victims that are classified as 'probable cause'. And that idicates that child abuse and neglect has occured, and that its not just a hotline call. It has been investigated and substantiated." Prater explained.

There is a local study underway that focuses on the long-term health implications of child abuse. So far, as many as 5,000 people have participated. This collaborative effort between local health institutions, Missouri State University and CASA, seeks to understand how adults with chronic physical and mental health problems might be linked to unhealthy and unsafe childhood experiences. The findings of this study are expected to be released later this year. The goal of this research is to help agencies like CASA find ways to help children and their families.

"The goal is to start collaborating with the universities, non-profits, city groups, churches,etc. Then you can really get stuff done. That's my goal, to start building strong collaboration with other agencies in order to address this issue. No one organization has the resources or expertise to tackle this problem alone." said Prater.

While Greene County ranked last in child abuse and neglect, its overall Kids Count ranking was 42nd of 114 counties on the condition of children and families.For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.