The rate of children being abused in Thurston County has risen by 10 instances per 1,000 since 2010, according to information provided Tuesday during a Thurston County commissioners meeting.
In 2010, the number of referrals accepted by Child Protective Services was 1,213 for a rate of 20.9 per 1,000 children in the county. In 2015, the number was 1,796, which is a rate of 30.8 per 1,000 children.
“These things are very real to a great number of people in Thurston County,” Thurston County Epidemiologist Mary Ann O’Garro said. “One thing to never forget is children can die and they do die. Child abuse can result in the death of the child, and has happened many times in Thurston County.”
Types of abuse include physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. Abuse can impact the life of a child into adulthood, O’Garro said. Some may have difficulty holding a job or relationship, some will have substance abuse issues, as well as suffer from depression and anxiety. They might continue the cycle of abuse or become part of the justice system.
One way to prevent the cycle from continuing, she said, is to help at-risk families deal with the issues through the Nurse Family Partnership Program. A registered nurse will make home visits during and after pregnancy to teach the family how to care for the child to prevent abuse. In Thurston County, 164 families are part of the program.
“Better outcomes for kids mean a safer community in general,” said Jon Tunheim, Thurston County’s prosecutor. “It is really important to support the Nurse Family Partnership.”
The Thurston County Board of Health agreed to provide supervisory support to the Lewis County Nurse Family Partnership until a new supervisor has been hired.
“Kids are 30 percent of our population, but 100 percent of our future,” Commissioner Gary Edwards said. “I don’t think you can invest enough resources in our future.”