Their view: Child abuse, neglect add up to trouble

Bill Jones - Guest Columnist | November 10th, 2017 1:54 pm

It was bound to happen … and it did.

After 33 years, the Texas Instruments Business Analyst II calculator that I bought as a senior in college in 1984 no longer works. Several of the digits do not illuminate on the display and, last month, it was time to say goodbye to an old friend.

Back in its day, the TI BA II calculator was state of the art technology. It not only helped me with many of my business classes in college and graduate school, early in my career it helped me calculate thousands of loan payment options for customers as a young banker and then helped me do an awful lot of planning and budgeting when I entered the nonprofit sector.

For more than 30 years, until last month, this trusted calculator has always had its place of honor in my top desk drawer wherever I worked.

I realize that times and technology have changed and, more often than not, I could do what math I need to do on an excel spread sheet or even on my smart phone. Yet, the clunky old calculator helped me make sense of things for more than three decades and I will miss it.

Despite being fairly adept with numbers and having a good calculator for so long, there are just some statistics that that will never “add up” or make much sense to me. At the United Way of Wyoming Valley, not only do we find the child poverty rate, one in every four children, to be alarming, we are also finding the incidences of child abuse and neglect in Luzerne County to be unconscionable.

Each year in our community, abuse and neglect affects thousands of children. In fact, out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Luzerne County ranked sixth in the number of substantiated child abuse cases.

There is significant research that shows child abuse and neglect impacts brain development and often leads to long-term physical and mental health problems, behavioral health issues, poor academic performance, and substantially lower economic potential over a lifetime. Additionally, it is estimated that victims of child abuse are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-abused individuals.

The link between poverty and child maltreatment is complicated, but undeniable. Studies show that in poor families, abuse is three times more common and neglect is seven times more common. The lack of resources, social isolation and the additional stress of being poor, make coping with the challenges of life that much more difficult.

Child abuse and neglect deserves the attention of our community and prevention must become a public health priority.

At the United Way of Wyoming Valley, we are partnering with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, the Moses Taylor Foundation, and a number of other agencies to create community awareness, strengthen families, and build capacity of local schools and organizations serving children. With the support of donors to our annual campaign, we hope to disrupt the poverty and abuse cycle and reduce the incidences of child abuse and neglect.

Aristotle, the great philosopher and scientist, who obviously knew more about math than I ever will, was once asked the question, “What is the essence of life?” He answered by saying, “To serve others and to do good.”

It does not take a calculator to figure out that if we serve children, keep them safe and healthy, and ensure they get a good education, we would be doing good. More importantly, over time, those children, families and our community will do better.

Although challenging, reducing childhood poverty, preventing child abuse and neglect, and improving our community are problems worth solving. These “sum up” much of the work being done by the United Way of Wyoming Valley – no old calculator required.

Bill Jones, president and CEO of the United Way of the Wyoming Valley will be one of the panelists at the 'Children in Poverty' discussion May 1 at Misericordia University in Dallas. Jones, president and CEO of the United Way of the Wyoming Valley will be one of the panelists at the 'Children in Poverty' discussion May 1 at Misericordia University in Dallas.

Bill Jones

Guest Columnist

Bill Jones is President and CEO at United Way of Wyoming Valley. He can be reached at 829-6711 ext. 1230.