Leaders from the Reno Police Department and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said 90 children in Nevada are abused or neglected every week and a new report called “Breaking the Cycle” from national organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids says 4,600 Nevada children were victims in 2010.
This comes on the heels of last week’s 2012 Kids Count report that listed Nevada’s rank as 48th in the nation in the wellbeing of children.
“Come on, Nevada, we can do much better than this,” Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said as he closed his remarks at Tuesday’s press conference. “We have to do much better than this.”
Haley was joined by Reno police Chief Steve Pitts and Deputy Chief Dave Evans, and by Ted Eismeier, a spokesman for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, based in Washington. The report emphasized the benefits of voluntary home visiting services, which helps new parents learn about issues from pre-natal care to nutrition to disease to connection to other services. Quality home visiting can cut child abuse and neglect in half, according to a statement by Fight Crime.
“Law enforcement experience tells us that child abuse and neglect spur future crime and violence,” Haley said in a press release. “Case after case shows us that it’s a cycle of abuse and violence we’re seeing we’re seeing, sometimes across several generations. If we provide resources to the most high-risk families, we can help break that cycle and prevent abuse before it occurs. Public safety professionals agree that home visiting that home visiting can help protect kids, stop crime and save us money in the long run.”
At the conference, Haley said abused children are 30 times more likely to become criminals, abuse their own children and perpetuate the cycle. He also urged Nevada’s congressional delegation to expand funding for the home visits. Three people who make such visits came to Tuesday’s conference: Stephanie Wyatt and Melissa McGovern from the federal Head Start program at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Rebecca Gonzales, a public health nurse with the Washoe County Health District. McGovern said the UNR program works with 180 children through its center at the university and home visits and tracks the families for three years.
“We’ve had families we work with in the homeless shelter and when they leave us they have their own apartment,” McGovern said.
While the visits produce some remarkable results, McGovern said, the program only reaches about 2 percent of the area’s eligible population, which includes anyone at 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
“There’s lots of need out there,” said Gonzales, one of the county’s three nurses who make home visits through pre- and post-natal care programs for moms.
Pitts said that when police respond to calls at individual homes about crimes against children, officers often look for indicators that other social services are needed. Evans added that these crimes are not necessarily committed by bad people but rather people who need support to make better decisions.
“As law enforcement we are concerned about this problem because we see it up close,” Evans said.