Child Abuse and Neglect on the Rise

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As we reported earlier this week, there were two Mandan couples who were charged with child abuse and neglect.

In both cases, the children were taken into custody by Child Protective Services.

These reports are becoming more frequent.

More than 12,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Department of Human Services in 2014.

The year before that, there were 11,000.

The department is working with advocacy groups in the state to prevent child abuse rates from increasing even more.

Research shows children exposed to abuse and neglect are more than likely to have relationship and health issues.

"Child abuse and neglect affects the actual architecture of a child's brain and the longer a child is exposed to those adverse conditions, the deeper the impact," said Marlys Baker, child protective services administrator, Department of Human Services.

The most common type of maltreatment is neglect, and Baker says it accounts for 75 percent of the confirmed cases.

"They are not receiving medical care. They may be living in environments that are unhealthy. They may be exposed to drugs and drug activity in their homes. They may be witnesses or even present during some pretty severe domestic violence," Baker said.

Baker says the department depends on responsible people to step up when they see children being mistreated.

"There's so much potential for the future with kids. If you can intervene, you can make a positive difference. If you can help a family, that impacts our society, our communities in ways that we really can't even measure," Baker said.

Advocacy groups like Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota and NDSU Extension are funded by the Department of Human Services to offer parenting classes and prevention tips.

"We try to offer them some different parenting tools that they might be able to try and then we try to practice with them a little bit," said Deb Thuerer, parent education at the NDSU Extension.

Both Baker and Thuerer say they understand all adults with children can go through tough times, but it's important to ask for help when they need it.