Tahlequah Daily Press

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July 6, 2007

Oklahoma first in deaths of abused children

Despite raised awareness of child abuse over the past 20 to 30 years, the fact are still difficult for many people to fathom.

“It never going to be a good, over-the-dinner-table discussion,” said Jo Prout, executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country. “I think it’s a telling commentary on our society when we can’t take care of our children. As they say, the children are our future, and we should do everything within our power to take care of that future. No child deserves to live in fear.”

Many area residents may be surprised to learn Oklahoma ranks first, per capita, in deaths of children caused by child abuse. According to a new report by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, from October 2004 through September 2004, 41 children died from abuse or neglect, giving Oklahoma a rate of 4.8 deaths per 100,000 children. The national rate is 1.96 deaths per 100,000 children.

Prout found the number alarming, and hopes it will prompt area residents to become more active in prevention measures.

According to the agency’s statistics for the 2006 calendar year, CASA of Cherokee Country assisted 95 children, 80 of whom were Native American.

“Since January 2007, we have assisted 86 children, 72 of whom are Native American,” said Prout. “Either way you look at it, about 76 percent of the children we’re involved with are Native American, a number that’s grown exponentially since I began working with CASA.”

Prout believes the higher number could be due to the high Native American population in the area, or that Native Americans could be less wary about reporting abuse than in previous years.

Of all the Native American tribes in the United States, only nine have tribal CASA agencies.

“We are ranked the largest of those nine, with the second-largest being the Creek tribal CASA, which works out of Okmulgee county,” said Prout.

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