We just wanted to get your attention, because we have learned something pretty disturbing. Child abuse cases are spiking as the recession worsens.
"In the last three months we have twice as many severe inflicted injury cases as we did in the three months the previous year," said Allison Scobie, program director of the Child Protection Team at Boston's Children's Hospital.
Typically, her hospital handles about 1,500 such cases a year. That rose to 1,800 last year.
"We're finding that it is directly attributable to what is happening economically," she said. "Many of the hospitals around here report an increase of 20 to 30 percent of requests for consultation regarding suspected child maltreatment."
The article tries, but doesn't quite manage, to establish a direct link between economic hardship and actual assault.
For instance: A poor mother had to leave her diabetic child alone during the day, and couldn't afford the co-payments for his treatment. Okay, this is bad for the child, and the state probably has a duty to intervene. But this certainly isn't one of those cases where a parent brutalizes the kid out of meanness, drunkenness or impatience. Poverty didn't make her a bad mother, but it did reduce her options pretty severely.
Even without a direct link, though, there certainly does seem to be a statistical correlation, and it is grim. Whether because of the recession or not, more children are being brutalized:
"We saw a huge influx of shaken-baby cases," said Dr. Alice Newton, medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital's Child Protection Team, which treated 25 children for serious abuse this year. That compares with 16 for all of 2008.
We don't doubt that hard times do play a role here. But so, of course, do a dozen other factors: the decline of the extended family (which we sometimes consider even more important than the nuclear one, and which is far more endangered); the historic underfunding of child protection agencies; Satan.
Still. Even if it is not a result of the investment banks and their mortgage-backed securities, and therefore traceable to the failed economic policies of both the Clinton and Bush administrations (pursued, in the latter case, by some of the same people now working for Obama, Summers notable among them), this surge in child abuse needs to be publicized and stopped, fast. If drawing connections to other things -- politics, the economy -- helps make people talk about the subject, then so be it.