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Fake Epidemic

September 12, 2008 permalink

Today the Sudbury Star publishes an article adding to the moral panic surrounding child abouse. Following the article is a reply to the editor.



Country has child abuse epidemic

Expert tells Sudbury audience doctors must be vigilant

Posted By CAROL MULLIGAN, THE SUDBURY STAR, Posted September 12, 2008

Canada is suffering an epidemic of child abuse, says a Sudbury pediatrician and medical consultant for the Children's Aid Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin.

There were 100,000 confirmed cases of child abuse in Canada, excluding Quebec, in 2003, Dr. Burke Baird told an audience at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine on Thursday.

"That's a whole lot of beat-up kids in a relatively small country," said Burke.

He referred to a study looking at 200,000 investigations into suspected child abuse, in which almost half the cases were substantiated.

"I think this qualifies as an epidemic," said Burke. "That's a whole lot of kids."

Good people sometimes do terrible things, and doctors and other professionals have to be on the lookout for it among the children in their charge.

Their job isn't to confirm child abuse, but professionals -- such as doctors, teachers and social workers -- have a legal and moral obligation to report it to child protection authorities.

In fact, the Child and Family Services Act says anyone who knows or suspects that a child is being abused or neglected must notify a Children's Aid Society.

That also means members of the public.

Baird defined child abuse for his audience of medical students, doctors and others at the first symposium of the new school year for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Child abuse is any kind of harm to a child's body, emotional pain, neglect, using a child for sexual purposes, or inflicting injury or psychological pain.

There are four types of child abuse -- neglect, emotional, physical and sexual -- and some forms are easier to spot than others.

For instance, it's easier to connect bruises or broken bones with a child being abused than it is to pinpoint the effects of something like domestic violence.

Baird, who has practised pediatrics in Sudbury for more than a decade, urged participants not to allow the fact someone "presents well" rule them out as possible child abusers.

Child abuse occurs among people of all socioeconomic classes and you can't detect it by looking at them.

It happens among families you see at hockey arenas and soccer practices, among families led by single parents and among "intact" families headed by both biological parents.

And it often happens where you would least expect it.

"They're not necessarily bad people, but they're people who do bad things."

Signs of physical and emotional abuse are often detected when doctors are examining children for other medical complaints.

Doctors, especially, have to take every precaution not to miss them, he said.

"Sometimes these families make it so easy for you," said Baird, referring to a mother who brought in a four-month-old suffering from cystic fibrosis for medical attention for a cough and breathing difficulty.

Bruises on the infant's arms and back showed there was something else going on as well.

"You kind of do the 'Columbo' thing" and ask lots of questions to draw the truth out if you suspect something is amiss.

Be especially wary of explanations for injuries that change in the retelling, of parents who delay seeking medical attention for children's injuries or who blame "significant trauma" on young siblings.

When it comes to bruises, it's about "location, location, location," said Baird. You would expect bruises on bony surfaces, but not around necks or underarms, or on children who are not yet mobile.

Bruises with a regular pattern or shape such as a hand, belt, cord or teeth also require further investigation.

"Think like a lawyer," Baird advised in his presentation. Photograph suspected injuries and mark them with measuring devices in the picture's frame.

Brain injury is the most common cause of death from child abuse, said Baird, adding Shaken Baby Syndrome is a misnomer.

More accurately, it is inflicted neurotrauma. "Shaking is one aspect, but there are many others."

Baird said everyone in a community needs to be aware of signs signs of child abuse.

If you see them, phone the Children's Aid Society and say: "This is what I am worried about."

Rather than over investigating complaints of possible child abuse, Baird said the CAS "tends to not go out as often as I would like."

Not all complaints result in investigations, and not all investigations result in cases of child abuse being confirmed.

One time, Baird said he was at a red light and witnessed a 350-pound man in the next car smack his child in the face as the infant sat in his car seat.

He followed the vehicle, obtained its licence plate number and reported it to the Children's Aid Society.

It turned out there had been several earlier complaints against the motorist.

Action may not be taken after the first complaint, but it may after the fourth or fifth, he said.

He urged his colleagues to report new cases of suspected child abuse, even if they occur among families already being investigated by the CAS.

There is "tons of missed child abuse in this country," said Baird, although "substantiated cases are going through the roof."

Source: Sudbury Star




September 12, 2008

The Sudbury Star
33 MacKenzie Street
Sudbury Ontario P3C 4Y1

(submitted by web-form for publication)

Subject: Country has child abuse epidemic

Today you quote Burke Baird, medical consultant for Children's Aid, saying Canada has 100 thousand cases of substantiated child abuse yearly.

Substantiated does not mean that a court heard both sides and decided the abuse was real. There is no opportunity for parents to present their case before determination. CAS goes on to place parents on the provincial child abuse register, and family court judges are powerless to take them off. Substantiated means little more than a bureaucrat saying "We want your child".

And why do they want your child? They can make copious claims on the taxpayer's money. At average per-diem rates, a single infant held in foster care to age of majority yields over $300,000 more than the cost of foster care, but much more if the child is tagged "special needs" (handicapped). One family found an invoice in which over $8,000 changed hands for just 14 days lodging.

Robert T McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Mattawa Ontario P0H 1V0

phone: 705-744-6274
email: [ rtmq at ]