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Child Abuse Cases On The Rise In Cumberland County

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — People in Cumberland County continue to try to get a handle on a disturbing trend: child abuse. The county is trying to fight the problem with new committees and public awareness campaigns.

New statistics reveal Cumberland County has the second highest reported incidents of child abuse in the state. If you total up the the number of children involved, the county ranks the worst in the state.

Social Services director Bill Scarlett cites many possible reasons for the high numbers.

Cumberland County is a low-wealth county with a disproportionate amount of young families.

Scarlett also believes the rise could be linked to all the efforts being made to stop it. "Because it's a matter of public information now to a larger extent than it was before, that could, in fact, be contributing to a larger number of reports," Scarlett says.

According to theDepartment of Health and Human Services, 665 additional child abuse cases were reported last year. The amount of children involved went up by 22.9 percent.

Critics say more support needs to come from the community, and more resources are needed. Help is on the way with a new $300,000 grant to fight abuse.

Critics also say while many local groups have programs to fight abuse, none concentrate on it solely. That will soon change as the Child Advocacy Center in the county will expand from treating abuse to preventing it.

"Prevention is having mothers learn early on how to deal with the stressors associated with what can lead up to being abused," says Mike Martin, director of the Child Advocacy Center.

Reports for the first six months of this fiscal year are down from last year. If that trend continues, Cumberland County's ranking could improve.


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