Perry Repeatedly Cut Child Abuse Prevention Funding As Texas Battled Rising Levels Of Abuse

A disturbing new report reveals that child abuse in the United States has reached “epidemic” levels, with one child dying every five hours from abuse or neglect. A recent congressional report estimates that some 2,500 children were killed as a result of maltreatment in 2009, and America has the worst child abuse record in the industrialized world.

And Texas has one of the worst child abuse records in the country, BBC noted. In Texas last year, 10.2 of every 1,000 children suffered confirmed abuse or neglect, and children younger than age 6 were the most common abuse victims — 39 percent were between the ages of 1 and 3.

But as governor, Rick Perry (R-TX) has repeatedly slashed funding for child abuse prevention. To balance a whopping $27 billion budget deficit, Perry choose to make draconian cuts to social services instead of raising any taxes or dipping into the state’s Rainy Day fund. Under the budget put forward by Texas Republicans, the state will have to lay off 565 caseworkers who investigate child abuse. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will see a loss of nearly $40 million.

Child abuse prevention advocates warned that the number of abused children would increase if Perry approved a 32 percent funding cut to several key prevention programs that have been proven to reduce abuse. They point out that increased abuse actually ends up costing Texas more in coming years. The direct and indirect costs of child maltreatment in Texas surpassed $6.3 billion in 2007.

Abused children are more likely to require above-average levels of cash assistance, subsidized health care, house assistance, and other forms of welfare when they grow up, a state council reports. More at-risk youth may go to jail and drop out of school, and more families break down if there is no intervention — yet self-proclaimed “pro-family” Republicans are willing to put more children at risk to avoid raising taxes on cigarettes.

And the “low tax, small government” state model Perry brags about is largely responsible for Texas’ shameful record. Michael Petit, the president of Every Child Matters, explains that child abuse is worse in states where the government is less involved in children’s lives. For instance, children in Texas “are four times more likely to be uninsured, four times more likely to be incarcerated, and nearly twice as likely to die from abuse and neglect” as children in Vermont.

When Perry took office in 2001, the child abuse rate was 7.2 per 1,000 children in Texas. In 2003, Texas Republicans led by Perry enacted state budget cuts that shredded Texas’ Child Protective Services system. Not coincidentally, child abuse rates rose between 2003 and 2007 in Texas, even as they decreased significantly nationwide.