All children benefit from strong families and safe communities where their needs are met. Most children are growing up with these supports. Unfortunately, many are not. Over a million children in America experience child maltreatment each year, and Alaska has amongst the highest per capita rates of child abuse and neglect in the country. Each year, thousands of child abuse and neglect cases are substantiated by the Office of Children Services (OCS).
Some communities face challenges in providing an environment that promotes positive outcomes for their children. When children’s needs are neglected, their growth and development can be affected, with life-long costs to them and to all of us. The mission of the Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) is to improve the status of children in Alaska by generating funds and committing resources to eliminate child abuse and neglect.
Research shows that the societal impacts of child maltreat are major:
First, it impairs a child’s physical, social and intellectual development. This, in turn, increases the risk of poor performance in school, mental health problems, substance abuse, and problems with the law. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004)
Second, childhood trauma contributes to serious long-term health problems. Researchers have found compelling evidence that traumatic childhood experiences are surprisingly common, happen in all kinds of families, and have damaging consequences throughout a person’s lifetime. Adults who were abused or otherwise traumatized as children have much higher rates of chronic disease, disability and premature death. (Source: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, Centers for Disease Control, 1998)
Finally, the financial toll of childhood trauma is staggering. Dealing with the immediate and long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect is estimated at $80 billion per year in the United States. (Source: Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012)
Learn more about child abuse and neglect in Alaska in our 2016 community report.