W.Va. Shows Significant Improvement in Child Abuse Rates

RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A belt across the face -- that's the form of punishment police say Donald Tackett inflicted on his 3-year-old daughter in late January 2012.

"I've got three children of my own," Patrolman Johnathan Thompson says. "I couldn't image somebody, no matter what the child's done, act that hostile toward your children. It's just sickening."

That type of crime often makes headlines; meetings to help prevent the problem of child abuse often do not.

On Wednesday, a group of child advocates gathered at the West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston to learn more about the West Virginia Legislative Action Team and its efforts to pass legislation that impact a child's well-being.

Jim McKay is the state Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse America.
He says, " Prevention is much more than reporting your suspicions; it's how do we help families."

The 2011 West Virginia Kids Count Data Book shows a dramatic improvement in the state's child abuse and neglect rates. It shows the rate has improved by 21.8 percent since 2005.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the number," says West Virginia Kids Count Director Margie Hale. "For a long time we didn't have baseline data to compare it with for many years. Recently we got that. I'm hoping the number is the beginning of a real trend."

Other highlights of this year's data show: the teen injury/death rate has improved by 15.4 percent, the child death rate has improved by 8.8 percent.

However, during the same period, the percent of births to unmarried teens got 13 percent worse and the teen birth rate worsened by 10.9 percent.

West Virginia is the only state in the nation that has seen an increase in those numbers.

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