If A Tree Falls On DHHS, Will They Hear It?

Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
August 6, 2001

Does DHHS stand for "DUH!"? One has to wonder.

The Washington Times reported August 5 that DHHS is still trying to figure out what causes child abuse, and how it can be relieved. Of course, the bureaucratic mindset first proclaims that it just requires more money — 2.6 $Billion to be exact — needed to fund more investigators, and training for existing troops.

Professor Richard J. Gelles, a professor of family violence at the Social Work School, University of Pennsylvania, thinks "CAPTA (Children Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) could be more effective if social-worker training was improved, and if children and families were monitored more closely."

Uh, pardon me professor Gelles ... what exactly is it that the UP Social Work School trains them to do? Gosh, isn't that your job?

"State and federal governments are funding only half of the $5.2 billion it costs to do the job, child welfare expert Charles Wilson told the House Education and Workforce subcommittee on select education last week."

Pardon me, Mr. expert Wilson, does anybody know exactly how much of the taxpayer's dollars are currently being appropriated to fund Child Protective Services (DHHS-CPS)? The last time I checked, it was extremely difficult to nail that figure down, but the best estimate I could conjure was about 285 $Billion.

" 'The incidence of child abuse and neglect exceeds the capacity of our system to respond,' said Mr. Wilson, who spoke on behalf of the National Child Abuse Coalition and the National Call to Action child-abuse prevention group."

Let me ask another question, Mr. expert Wilson. To which "incidence / capacity" are you referring? Is it the actual incidence of child abuse, or the rate of reports of child abuse? According to the 1994 NCANDS report (DHHS — National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System), 86% of all allegations of abuse were unsubstantiated. Crunching the numbers, it turns out that 99.1% of American children are not victims of abuse. That leaves about 610,000 children at the mercy of DHHS/CPS determinations — maybe. Because DHHS interprets each report of child abuse as an individual case, it could also be that 100,000 children are being reported as abused 6 times. It is also true that if one child suffers multiple forms of abuse, those are also counted as individual reports.

If even one child is brutalized, we must make an effort to intervene; unquestionably. But what if the effort is ineffectual?

If we really are talking about 600,000 individual cases here, that means that the reported current $5,200,000,000.00 expenditure allocates slightly less than $9000.00 per child victim. Let's say that the average CPS Social Worker is paid an average annual salary of $35,000.00. Then let's cut that figure in half to pay for buildings and supervisory staff. Does that mean that the demands of individual cases are so great that each worker can only attend to two victims per year? I'm confused.

Are those books I smell cooking?

Now here comes the real tough question. If there was a single solution that would eliminate sixty percent of child abuse would anyone at DHHS want to hear about it?

Apparently not, because the solution I speak of is the intact biological family. The potential for abuse is grossly reduced when a child is living in an intact family with both of their biological parents.

Three decades of research provide consistent outcomes, no matter how old or how fresh. And as any social science researcher will tell you, it is replicability (repeated same or similar outcomes) that determine "hardiness" of data. Here are some extremely hardy data:

  • One of the greatest risk factors in child abuse, found by virtually every investigation that has ever been conducted, is family disruption.
  • Living in a female-headed, single-parent household ranks as especially consequential.
  • 43 percent of children reporting as having been abused lived in female-headed, single-parent households; compared with 18 percent in the total population.
  • Both sexual abuse and physical abuse are affected by single-parenthood.
  • Rates of severe and very severe violence toward children are substantially greater in single-parent households.
  • Despite the fact that immediate family members have the most access to children, less than half of the sexual abuse perpetrators are actually family members and close relatives.
  • Strangers make up 10 to 30 percent of the cases.
  • The remainder are acquaintances including mother's boyfriends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, and peers.
  • Among sexual abusers who are "blood relatives", only a small fraction are Fathers. The great majority are uncles, grandfathers, brothers and stepbrothers, and male cousins.
  • Chances of a "daughter" being abused by her stepfather are at least seven times higher than by her Biological Father.
  • Forty-seven percent of cases of sex abuse by stepfathers were classified as "very serious", vs only 26 percent of cases by the Biological Fathers. (The total percentage of children suffering sexual abuse in the NCANDS study was 11.7% of all categories of abuse).
  • Single mothers tend to be more violent abusers than mothers in dual-parent households.
  • Single mothers, in one national survey, reported a 71 percent greater rate of "very severe violence" toward their children than did dual-parent mothers.
  • Probably the most serious threat to children in single-parent families is the mother's boyfriend.
  • Leslie Margolin, an educational expert, found that 64 percent of non-parental abuse was committed by mother's boyfriends.
  • Daycare providers and baysitters accounted for 15 percent of abuse.
  • Psychologists Margo Wilson and Martin Daly found that "preschoolers in Hamilton (Ontario) living with one natural parent and one stepparent in 1993 were 40 times as likely to become child abuse statistics than those living with two natural parents.
  • Daly and Wilson assert, "stepchildren are not merely 'disadvantaged' but emperiled."
  • U.S. data indicates that youngest children (two years and under) have a hundred times greater risk of being killed at the hands of step parents than of genetic parents."

Data courtesy of Dr. David Popenoe's Life Without Father

In 1965, Senator Patrick Moynihan was condemned for his observation of the consequences of family breakdown:

"From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos."

There you go again DHHS: Intact, biological families. There's the answer again, and you don't owe me one copper penny. Can you hear it?

Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D. [Clinical Psychology] is the founder and president of the DA*DI [Dads Against the Divorce Industry] an educational forum for responsible fatherhood. Since founding DA*DI in 1994, he has been devoted to researching, advising and disseminating information on the issues that he believes threaten to engulf and diminish the American culture; the same issues that are driving the divorce industry and the deconstruction of the family and fatherhood.
E-Mail Gerald at glrowles@earthlink.net

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11 aug 2001