(U.S.) – Studies show that a one in four children will experience abuse, neglect, and maltreatment and that about 1,700 children die every year as a result.
In a new clinical report, “Ongoing Pediatric Health Care for the Child Who Has Been Maltreated,” in the April 2019 Pediatrics (published online March 18), the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children who have been maltreated need more frequent medical evaluation by their primary care clinician and deserve additional care and consideration.
Children who are maltreated face many burdens, including injuries and growth delays due to head trauma, being more likely to have lower test and IQ scores, higher rates of obesity and eating disorders, and a higher likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, such as smoking, drug use, regular alcohol consumption, and binge drinking.
“Pediatricians are many times the only person in the lives of children who are victims of abuse and neglect who can adequately manage the physical, developmental, and emotional consequences and provide support and direction to the families of these children,” said Emalee G. Flaherty, MD, FAAP, the lead author of the report and co-chair of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. “This report recognizes that even when children are removed from abusive situations, and placed in foster care, many of them will return to their families with bad behaviors and new trauma from those placements.”
The AAP recommends pediatricians:
- Should advocate for safe communities and environments, and programs that strengthen economic supports for families and mitigate the negative effects of toxic stress.
- Offer additional care—3 visits in 3 months and every 6 months after the maltreatment occurred and returning home from foster care—understanding that 60 percent of cases will recur.
- Coordinate with schools and community programs to help develop of supportive relationships for abused kids, among other guidelines.
The AAP calls for more research into strategies that will help reduce violence in all communities.