Philanthropists seek business support to reduce child abuse

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 174 views 

With more than 35 years of medical practice to his credit, Dr. Jerry Jones at Arkansas Children’s Hospital has seen things. As one of less than 20 physicians in the country board certified in Child Maltreatment, most of what he’s seen are cases no one ever wants to see.

“Child abuse cannot hide under the covers,” said Jones. “It’s not just a social problem or a medical problem or a public health problem. It’s a community problem and a legal problem and a business problem. No one group has a lock on this issue.”

The numbers around abuse in Arkansas are enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Roughly 11,000 cases of abuse were reported in Arkansas in 2011, the most recent year statistics are available. Experts estimate for every case that is reported, there are two unreported cases. According to the National Child Protection Training Center, abuse will cost the state of Arkansas $362 million over the lifetime of the children whose cases of abuse were confirmed in 2011. The cost would be higher, but children who are abused typically die 10-20 years sooner than counterparts who were not abused.

The $362 million represents:
• $25.29 million for acute medical treatment
• 29.97 million for mental health treatment
• $219.36 million for the child welfare system
• $272,416 for law enforcement costs
• $1.22 million for special education
• $4.20 million for early intervention programs
• $6.25 million for emergency/transitional housing
• $3.15 million for mental health and health care
• $25.16 million for juvenile delinquency
• $47.19 million for lost worker productivity

“Because of the cyclical nature of abuse, it’s not just one family that ends up disorganized, but many families are disorganized,” Jones explained. “But the thing is, we know how to break the cycle.”

However, knowing what to do and being able to fund it are two different things. That’s where the Quinn family and Heartland Bank entered the picture. Together, they will donate $1 million over the next five years to build a new Children’s House on the campus of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The facility, when complete, will house physicians, counselors, trained interviewers, crisis interventionists, law enforcement officials and child advocates. The center will also serve as a training facility for child abuse professionals across the state.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been getting requests to support any number of causes,” said Walter Quinn, Partner and CEO of Rock Financial Partners, the holding company for Heartland Bank. “We didn’t want to give $100 here and there. We wanted to give a substantial gift to something that would make a difference in our community. This was it.”

Terry Quinn has been part of the ACH Auxiliary for many years. She’s seen first hand how the hospital is run and what a difference it makes in the lives of families across the state.

“It’s past time for people to stop saying, ‘Oh those poor abused children,’ and moving on. We need to do something about it. Getting the business community involved in this allows companies to recognize that they have people on the payroll who are hurting and need help, so we’re going to provide it,” she said.

The $6 million plan for Children’s House will move all of the services currently available for abuse recovery under one roof. Currently, if a child presents in a clinic or the emergency room or is reported through the child abuse hotline, the medical and mental health services they need are in three different buildings scattered around the ACH campus. Many people don’t complete recovery services, in part, because the process becomes too arduous to handle.

“Right now, it’s hard to coordinate treatment because all the different departments because they’re predominantly working in silos that don’t integrate well,” explained Jones. “We’ve got to change the mindset to change the outcomes.”

When the Heartland Bank and Quinn family gift was announced, Walter Quinn said an employee who was visibly emotional told him that she had experienced abuse in her family as a child. She plans to volunteer at Children’s House once it’s built.

This is an example of what the Quinns call the “power of philanthropy.” When other companies and business owners heard about their gift, they began to make pledges too.

Rebecca Rice and Associates recently pledged $1.1 million for the project and the Children’s Hospital Auxiliary pledged $1.5 million. The Quinns believe people in the state trust the vetting process they use for foundation gifts and want to “be a part of something good.”

“You can call it social issue, but that’s not all it is,” said Richard O’Brien, president and CEO of Heartland Bank. “It’s people who come to work every day, but they can’t do their jobs effectively because they’re worrying about their child or their sister or any number of situations. It needs to be acknowledged, and business needs to get behind a solution. Otherwise it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Dr. Jones warns that short-term success may not look like it strictly by the numbers.
As more families get help and education, more families will start to report behavior they may not have previously understood to be abuse, such as hitting or slapping a child.

Mothers with PTSD from an abusive situation will learn they don’t have to live with that anymore and seek help. The fear of upsetting extending family members by reporting abuse will ease enough to allow for follow-up counseling for children after their physical wounds have healed.

“Ultimately, our goal remains what it has always been,” said Jones, “for every family to leave here better than they arrived.”