Grand Forks County ranks 4th in child abuse cases in state
Grand Forks County had the fourth-highest rate of child abuse and neglect in North Dakota in 2012. So say recently released North Dakota Department of Human Services statistics. The county had 15.44 cases of abuse and neglect per 1,000 children d...
Grand Forks County had the fourth-highest rate of child abuse and neglect in North Dakota in 2012.
So say recently released North Dakota Department of Human Services statistics.
The county had 15.44 cases of abuse and neglect per 1,000 children during 2012 while the statewide average was 9.1. The 2012 number is fairly consistent with Grand Forks County's case rates over the last five years, as they have ranged from 12.9 to 16.0.
"We're not exactly sure why, but we believe the vast majority relates to some involvement of alcohol and drugs," Ed Christ, director of the Grand Forks County Social Services Board, said about the numbers.
"Our foster care caseload has exploded, a result of child protective service reports. We're getting custody of more kids than ever before."
Christ said recent numbers showed that the county had custody of 199 children. That compares with 135 children a year ago at this time.
Grand Forks has the highest percentage of the four most populous counties. Cass, which includes Fargo, is at 6.2 cases per 1,000 children while Burleigh (Bismarck) is at 11.4 and Ward (Minot) is at 14.6.
Two Oil Patch counties, Divide (38.5 cases per 1,000) and Williams (16.6) are in the top three, as is Ramsey County (27.5). The Ramsey County numbers do not include cases on the Spirit Lake Reservation, as tribal lands are not included in Department of Human Services statistics.
Close to national average
Overall, North Dakota's 9.1 cases per thousand are close to the national average of 9.2.
"That North Dakota is similar to the rest of the country likely will surprise a lot of people," said Karen Olson, program director for North Dakota Kids Count, a national and state effort to track the status of children.
"There is a general assumption here that we're good people. But we have issues. We need to provide parents with the tools to develop the skills they need.
Olson said the state's abuse/neglect numbers are likely lower than publicized because not all cases are reported to the proper authorities and because of the tribal numbers' exclusion.
One of the leading factors in abuse/neglect, Olson said, is "isolation from the community," meaning many people feel disconnected when living in rural areas, even those living in more populous areas such as Grand Forks County.
The Kids Count message is that the abuse/neglect rates for North Dakota children have undesirable future implications such as "substance abuse, obesity, eating disorders, suicide and high-risk sexual behavior."
Research shows that those negative outcomes can be combated with education, increased awareness and community engagement, according to Olson.
Only 27 of the state's 54 counties are included in the survey because every county with fewer than six reports of abuse/neglect was omitted. They were all counties with low population.
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