What is the cost of raising a child?

Anyone who has a child – a daughter, son, niece, nephew, grandchild or step-child – knows that raising a child places many demands on the adult. Raising a child takes patience, time and – as we all know – MONEY

 The majority of us who have the privilege of caring for a child of any age relish in the joy a child brings to our lives. We unassumingly and lovingly invest in the child by providing for their basic needs like food, clothing and shelter as well as less tangible needs such as spiritual, physical, cognitive, emotional and others. The goal is always to raise a child to be healthy, happy and successful.

Yet there are hundreds of thousands of children who cost much more than others to raise. These are the innocent victims of child abuse and neglect. A recently released report underscores this sad fact. Costs to bring up children who are abused and neglected include hospitalizations, therapy, counseling, criminal justice and special education among others. Consider the story of Curtis Ray, Alabama’s multi-million dollar child.

The most depressing and perhaps cruelest cost though is that of funeral expenses for children who do not survive abuse. Not only have we lost a child, but their subsequent significant contribution to our world went with him/her. Anyone who has enjoyed the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life  knows that one life impacts the lives of many, many others.

Today’s depressed economy and the high incidence of single-parent homes combine with other factors to increase child abuse and neglect in our community. Although the problem occurs at all socio-economic and education levels, studies show that children from lower socio-economic families experience more incidents of abuse and neglect. 

Family finances are indicative of the family’s ability to manage the cost of raising happy, healthy children. When money is scarce, stress levels increase and innocent, helpless, often voiceless children bear the brunt of their parent’s or guardian’s anger, resentment and bitterness.

What can we do to reduce and prevent these horrifying statistics? We know that prevention works. Family support programs are one way. Providing financial assistance to lower the costs of child care tuition helps too.

Alabama is in particular need right now, as funding for the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention is being severely jeopardized in the 2013 proposed budget. We encourage you to take action now to protect funding for this vital state agency.

What do you want to do to help? What are your concerns? Let us know.

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