More voluntary home visit programs to help struggling young families would reduce child abuse and later reduce adolescent crime, members of the New York State Sheriff’s Association said Tuesday.
More than two dozen sheriffs from around the state appeared in support of the program at the annual summer training conference of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, being held at the Excelsior Springs on Excelsior Avenue.
“We can prevent child abuse and neglect in the short term and prevent crime in the long term,” said Saratoga County Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo.
The organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids said that every year, more than 65,000 children in New York state experience abuse or neglect. The group believes the number can be reduced if there were more home visiting programs, and says research shows that children who are neglected or abused when they are young commit more crimes when they become adolescents.
“These are crime-prevention programs, and we need to treat them as such,” said Jenn O’Connor, one of the authors of a new report for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
She said the state allocated about $23.5 million for such programs last year, and she’d like to see that number hold steady or grow. “When you look at the outcomes, it’s really a drop in the bucket,” O’Connor said.
The money pays for nurses or social workers to go into homes where children are believed to be at risk, to help improve parenting skills. Participation is voluntary.
“Most cases of abuse and neglect are preventable if we take a pro-active approach that utilizes proven, evidence-based practices,” the report states.
The programs are administered at the local level, though with state funding.
Saratoga County doesn’t have program, but Zurlo said he would support it if it was proposed.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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