Hopefully, the Alabama Legislature will take action next year to deal with a serious problem in Alabama. The cost of child abuse is typically measured in broken bones and broken lives, in the number of horrifying tales and images found on the airwaves and in the morning newspaper pages. But abuse also has an economic cost. A report released last month by the University of Alabama suggests that the cost may be larger than expected. This is an area of concern that must be addressed.
Child abuse costs Alabamians more than $520 million each year, according to the report prepared by the university’s Center for Business and Economic Research. Marian Loftin, director of Alabama Children’s Trust Fund, which commissioned the study, said the large figure came as a surprise to her, too. She stated that they knew it was “very, very costly,” but that nobody thought it would be that high. The report divided the economic impact of child abuse into direct costs such as hospital bills and costs to the judicial and welfare systems, indirect costs that include adult criminality and lost productivity to society. UA researchers drew on data from various national studies. Then applied those figures to state demographics to come up with the estimates.
Paul Smelley, deputy director of the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect, which oversees the Children’s Trust Fund, said the new information will help advocates by providing easy-to-grasp figures to cite in literature and when talking to legislators about budgeting needs. The report stops short of making specific recommendations on how to address the problem. The intent of the report apparently was to raise awareness, not propose solutions. Dr. Carl Ferguson, professor at the University of Alabama who was a consulting economist on the report, said: “This study simply says wake up, there’s an issue.” Hopefully, the legislators will recognize how serious the child abuse issue is and deal aggressively with real solutions. There will be legislation again this year addressing this problem.
Source: Associated Press
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