OLYMPIA, Wash. - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and state lawmakers have shown that the topic is a big priority. Despite the state's financial crisis, Washington's House and Senate have included funds for abuse and neglect prevention in their proposed budgets.
About 7,000 child-abuse cases are recorded each year statewide, and experts say many more go unreported.
Laura Wells, state director of the group Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, says the state helps fund assistance for poor families and teen mothers, with regular home visits from nurses and social workers.
"The home visitor really acts as a coach, if you will, for the parents - helping them understand normal child development, what sorts of things that they can be and should be doing with their children - to maximize their development at every step along the way."
Miriam Rollin, the group's national director, says the federal government has set aside $1.5 billion to be shared with states in the next five years for abuse-prevention programs. In order to receive any of the money, however, a state has to keep its own funding at current levels. This year, not all states have chosen to do that.
"We recognize some cuts have to happen. We're just saying, 'Can we make sure that this stuff, that we know saves far more than it costs down the road, is actually the last thing to be cut rather than the first thing to be cut?' It's all a question of priorities."
The state funding will allow Washington to receive more than $1 million a year in federal matching funds for child-abuse prevention. A recent report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that one of the programs, the "Nurse-Family Partnership," is among the most cost-effective crime-prevention tools funded by the state.