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Encouraging Progress, but Still a Concern

(FORT BRAGG, NC) Homicide of a young child by a parent or caregiver (HPC) is on the decline in North Carolina, but the rates in Cumberland and Onslow counties, homes of the largest military installations in the state, remain twice the state rate. And the rates for military families in those counties remain higher than the rates for civilian families. These are the major findings in a study released today by Action for Children North Carolina.

“We are pleased to note that all HPC rates declined during the period 2001-2010, even though the stress on all our families – and particularly military families – increased significantly during that period,” said Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow at Action for Children. “However, the fact that a young child died by the hands of a parent/caregiver about every two weeks during the entire period is a tragic reminder that we have a long way to go.”

The report, Collateral Damage on the Home Front: Ten Years Later, covers the period 2001-2010, and replicates a report the organization issued in 2004 covering the period 1985-2000. Highlights in the report include:

  • Between 2001 and 2010, there were 251 homicides by parent/caregiver of children from birth through ten years of age in North Carolina. That computes to a rate of 1.9 deaths per 100,000 children. That represents a 13.6% decline from the 1985-2000 period.
  • There were 22 HPCs in Cumberland and 11 in Onslow during the 2001-2010 period. Stated another way, Cumberland and Onslow account for 2% of the counties, 6% of the children birth through age 10, and 13% of the HPCs in the state.
  • Though their HPC rates remain twice the state rate, the rate for Cumberland declined by 11.3% during the period. The rate for Onslow declined by 5.4%.
  • In Cumberland, there were 10 HPCs of children in active military families for a rate of 4.18 per 100,000, which is a remarkable 16% decline from the prior period. There were 12 HPCs in civilian families, for a rate of 4.0 per 100,000, which is a 9.1% decline.
  • In Onslow, there were 8 HPCs in active military families for a rate of 4.65 per 100,000, a decline of 5.3% from the prior period. There were 3 HPCs in civilian families for a rate of  3.05 per 100,000, which is a 6.4% decline

“The declines in HPC rates are not happenstance,” said Vitaglione. The report cites the implementation of many inter-agency coordinated efforts to learn from current experience to prevent future occurrences of child maltreatment and death. Additionally, all intervention and support services are now required to be evidence-based (i.e., proven to be effective in supporting families and reducing negative outcomes).

“The response in Cumberland and Onslow has been particularly impressive,” said Vitaglione. The report notes that in both counties the military and local agencies have established high levels of cooperation, coordination and collaboration, with county-sponsored services being available to civilian and military families alike.

The report also finds that, as part of national efforts sponsored by the Department of Defense, the installations in both counties now have an enormous array of family support services, including a host of support services related specifically to deployment.

“Child maltreatment risk indicators include younger families (and younger children), those under economic stress, often a lower level of education, and isolation from extended family supports,” said Vitaglione. “A large percentage of active military families have all these risk indicators. To those, add deployment(s), and the perfect storm for family violence is created.”

“Despite the enormous stress that military families have been under in the past decade, the HPC rates in active military families dropped by more than 5% in Onslow, and a remarkable 16% in Cumberland,” said Vitaglione. “While the HPC rates for civilian and military families in both counties remain unacceptably high, the fact that this media release is occurring at Fort Bragg is an indicator of the commitment of civilian and military leaders to continue making progress in the reduction of these rates. Children and families are relying on that commitment.”

Collateral Damage on the Home Front: Ten Years Later, Making Strides in Reducing Homicides by Parent or Caregiver in the Military, is available on the Action for Children website at: https://www.ncchild.org/sites/default/files/2012_Military%20Child%20Abuse%20Deaths%20(FINAL)_0.pdf. 

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