Measure 30 Would Help Protect Children

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Lou Enge and Marilyn Klug For The Register-Guard

Success by Six, a communitywide children's initiative, is mobilizing Lane County families, organizations and communities to ensure that our children are safe, healthy and cherished, and that they enter school ready to learn. Our foremost goal is to significantly reduce child abuse and neglect in Lane County. To that end, we strongly urge voters to closely study Measure 30 and its ramifications on social services designed to support families at risk of child abuse.

Convened by United Way of Lane County, the Success by Six initiative is a response to a growing problem in our region. In 1999, Lane County's child abuse rates surpassed the state average. Since then, the gap has widened further, with Oregon rates decreasing and Lane County rates increasing. In 2002, the state average was 9.7 cases of abuse per 1,000 children 18 or younger; Lane County's 2002 rate was 13.5. In 2000, there were 1,168 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in our county.

While child abuse and neglect occur across all sectors of our society, certain factors increase the risk of child abuse. Among them:

Drug and alcohol abuse by parents. In 2002, 44.8 percent of substantiated child abuse cases in Oregon involved substance abuse.

Domestic violence. Research shows an increasing link between spousal abuse or fighting and child abuse and neglect.

Single teen parents. Children of single teen parents tend to experience poor physical health, low birth weight, stunted physical growth, lower cognitive abilities, decreased school achievement, and increased emotional and behavioral problems. They also are at greater risk for child abuse and neglect and infant mortality.

Maladaptive parenting practices. If parents provide adequate stimulus through language, visual, auditory and social interaction, the child's brain becomes "hard-wired" for language development and appropriate socialization. Conversely, parents who abuse or neglect their infants cause major damage to the developing brain and neurological systems.

Unemployment. In 2002, the head of the household in 36.2 percent of documented child abuse and neglect cases in Oregon was unemployed.

Parental involvement with law enforcement. In 2002, 41.5 percent of documented child abuse reports in Oregon occurred in families where parents were involved with law enforcement agencies.

Lane County statistics reflect these risk factors. Thirty-two percent of substantiated abuse and neglect cases involve domestic violence, and 37. …