The high cost of child abuse

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Mandy Wilson fights back tears as she talks about the death of her 5-year-old niece Serenity Deal. At the Capitol Tuesday she and Serenity’s grandmother called for urgent reform of the child welfare system.

“She slipped through the cracks. She was sent to her father’s house once in December in 2010 and once in January in 2011 and she came back both times abused,” grandmother Annett Deal said.

Serenity was murdered a month later, her dad pleaded guilty.

“The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is calling for bold reforms and wise investments, to fix the broken child welfare system.”

Part of the broken system, the 8,000 children in the care of only 1,000 DHS employees.

Serenity was not the only child who did not survive the system.

“We know that data collected from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth states 41 children have died while in care of the state,” Linda Terrell said, Executive Director with Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

The CDC estimates the average cost per victim is $210,012.

That includes $32,648 in childhood health care costs; $10,530 in adult medical costs; $144,360 in productivity losses to businesses; $7,728 in child welfare costs; $6,747 in criminal justice costs and $7,999 in special education costs.

Right now, there are several bills before legislature advocates say take proactive measures to keep children safe as well as cut the cost of abuse.

“She loved going to church, she loved dance and she always wanted to go to school but she will never get that chance,” Deal said.

Without immediate change Deal said other children won’t have a chance either.

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