Indiana lags behind in helping children with special needs
Children with disabilities are at greater risk for abuse.
Sunday, January 15, 2012 - 22:13
Photo: Karla Akins
According to Prevent Child Abuse America, children with disabilities are abused more than three times the rate of typical children. The Arc reports that one in three children with an identified disability are neglected, and physically or sexually abused while the rate for typical child is one in ten. Children with intellectual disabilities are four to ten more times likely to be victims of crime than others without disabilities and are at twice the risk for sexual abuse.
Part of the reason abuse occurs is that children with disabilities are often without a voice. Another part of the problem is that they have no network of support.
Very few resources are available in Indiana for children with disabilities. As budgets are slashed and government accounts are balanced, families are left on their own without the support of home health care, respite or funds to help with extra costs such as medicines, supplies or transportation to and from therapies and doctors. There are few to no social supports in Indiana, especially in rural areas.
Hoosier families who have applied for the Medicaid waiver more than 12 years ago are still waiting. The Developmental Disability Waiver is a government program that assists parents with the hands-on care of their special needs child and the costs of therapies and medicines. More than 21,000 families are on the waiting list. The process of waiting is frustrating as parents deal with the day-to-day heartaches and demands of parenting their child with disabilities. People who applied in 1998 are just now receiving services.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
There is some hope for children with disabilities living with stressed-out, over-stretched caregivers and parents. In 2006, the United States Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, the Lifespan Respite Care Act (PL 109-442). This law authorizes states to funnel grants to Aging and Disability Resource Centers so that they may work with public or private non-profit state respite organizations in order to make respite available to family caregivers regardless of age or disability. But the wheels of government turn slowly, and five years have passed with no such program in the Hoosier state.
Children with disabilities are at greater risk for abuse. Therefore, society has a responsibility to take measures to protect them. Indiana's leaders must recognize that the price of an innocent's life, who has no voice, is too high a price for to pay for a balanced budget. When innocent children die, the books of justice do not balance. Not responding is neglect itself.
Who, then, is the greater abuser? Society, who ignores the pain and torment of the innocents, or the abusers themselves? Indiana can only be great if Hoosiers care for the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Indiana, and society at large, must respond.
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