Tuesday, February 28, 2012

South Carolina ranks 45th in overall child well-being

Good thing that India's ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, won't be visiting South Carolina long enough to attend next month's annual conference sponsored by the USC-Upstate Child Advocacy Center. Learning that Governor Nikki Haley presides over a state that ranks 45th in the nation -- out of 50, mind you -- in overall child well-being might tarnish Haley's international celebrity.

Not that the governor pays attention to her international press coverage. At all.

But for the rest of us, the conference may be eye-opening.

According to recent statistics, one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 14, and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 16. Child maltreatment, however, involves more than just physical and sexual abuse; it also includes emotional abuse and failure to meet the basic needs of the child.

South Carolina ranks 45th in the United States for overall child well-being, and high rates of all forms of maltreatment in Spartanburg County have far-reaching consequences.

Many serious and costly youth problems, such as teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, school failure and substance abuse are preceded by child abuse and neglect. Furthermore, child abuse and neglect can disrupt early brain development, leading to increased risk of lifelong emotional and physical problems.

With these facts in mind, the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Center for Child Advocacy Studies is hosting its third annual conference, A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse through Advocacy and Education, on Friday, March 30, 2012 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the USC Upstate campus.

The conference is designed to target a broad audience of concerned citizens and professionals who work with children, including healthcare personnel, legal experts, the faith community, counselors, educators, social workers, victim service professionals, and community members.

According to Dr. Jennifer Parker, professor of psychology and program director, the conference is a major initiative to increase community awareness of the problem and to provide ongoing community education.

“The objectives of the conference are to impart a greater understanding of the problem of child abuse and its serious impact on child development and the community, as well as to provide expert training to those working with children,” said Parker. “I want to ensure that every citizen is capable of recognizing early warning signs of child abuse and neglect and will take appropriate action to end this pervasive problem in our community.”

The event’s keynote speaker is Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center. He has trained thousands of child protection professionals from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and 17 countries on numerous topics pertaining to child abuse investigations, prosecutions and prevention. Vieth is also the author of Unto the Third Generation, an initiative that outlines the necessary steps we must all take to eliminate child abuse in America in three generations.

Additional speakers include: Mark D. Everson, Ph.D., director of the Program on Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment at UNC – Chapel Hill; Arlene F. Lee, associate director of the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, DC: Dr. Nancy A. Henderson, M.D., director of Forensic Pediatrics at Greenville Children’s Hospital, Greenville, S.C.; Suzanna Tiapula, J.D., director of the NCAA’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse in Alexandria, Va.; Barbara Knox, M.D., medical director of the University of Wisconsin Child Protection Program at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisc.

But, hey, ranking 45th in the nation means that there are five states worse than us.

Congratulations, Governor Haley. Here's one ranking where we're not at the bottom!

You've got to AC-centuate the positive, E-liminate the negative...

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