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More resources for ‘at risk’ families - State pressured to allocate additional funding to prevent child abuse

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A relatively small amount of governmental funding can make a big difference in reducing the scourge of child abuse. That’s the contention of State Senator Marty Golden, who is pressing for the state to increase its budget for proactive efforts meant to prevent abuse from occurring. Golden said that the State Senate had included in its budget for the coming fiscal year, $7 million in funding that would be used to expand home visiting programs around the state. Current funding levels only allow for home visits to approximately 10 percent of at-risk families, according to Golden. Home visits can reveal domestic violence and substance abuse issues before a child is harmed, he stressed. The announcement was made just days after a Brooklyn jury convicted Cesar Rodriguez, Nixmary Brown’s stepfather, of manslaughter and other, lesser charges in the child’s 2006 death. Golden, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Critical Choices, also announced a plan whereby a system would be developed to aid the State Department of Health and the State Office of Children and Family Services in identifying at-risk expectant and new mothers in order to refer them for a home visiting program. Such a program can also serve to bring attention to health or learning problems when early detection can improve outcomes, Golden said. “Before the children are born, we could get in and work with at-risk families,” coping with a range of problems, including, “Employment, money, frustration, early birth, rage,” Golden said. The program, he stressed, is, “Proven. It’s worked across the country.” Such an effort, he added, could help in, “Making sure we keep children out of foster care, and keep children out of emergency rooms and hospitals. “We want to work with families to keep them intact,” Golden emphasized. “With Nixmary Brown, there was abuse over time. She didn’t show up at school. She walked down streets, went past neighbors. Alarms should have gone off. But, she fell between the cracks. “On average, in New York State, 77 kids a year die, 62,000 kids are abused — including 6,000 in Brooklyn — and 6,500 kids are removed from their homes,” Golden went on. “That doesn’t have to happen. We can prevent it. It’s costing the city and state billions to deal with something that could be prevented.” The results of child abuse last for years, Golden added. “Children who are abused grow up scarred,” he emphasized. “Sometimes they become abusers, so it’s a vicious cycle. This is a commonsense approach that will save lives and save money. It’s time that New York State redirect our efforts, focusing more on preventing child abuse and less on responding to it.” Local residents can aid the effort, Golden added. “If people know of a child that’s being abused,” he stressed, “they have to let the authorities know.”

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