“Any funding that will help prevent child abuse is a really positive thing for the community. It helps the children. It helps the parents. It helps them address the issues that might be causing them to act out in a violent way,” said Norman’s Chief of Police Keith L. Humphrey during our conversation on child abuse prevention dollars for our Stories Matter Project.

In 2011 there were 26,468 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Oklahoma. Child abuse statistics are higher in our state than in most states and contribute to many of our other disgraceful indicators, including criminality, mental illness and poverty. These disparities are unacceptable for a thriving and prosperous future for Oklahoma.

Deborah Shropshire, M.D. from OU Children’s Physicians told us, “If we don’t figure out how to truly prevent child abuse, where it doesn’t exist anymore, then what we create 20 years from now is another group of children who are being maltreated. It’s another group of young adults who are homeless or who are not able to get into a reasonable job market because they’re undereducated or because they don’t believe they can do anything better than just hang out in the neighborhood and get into trouble and that’s simply not true for these children. But it will be true for them in 20 years if we don’t do something in a different way.”

In the 2012 legislative session, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy fought hard for reforms to the state’s DHS system which will protect our children from abuse and neglect while in our state’s care. We know the best solution to a problem is always prevention. One major challenge our Department of Health and Human Services faces is an overwhelming backlog of cases, which translates into a slew of overloaded caseworkers.

If we can prevent child abuse in the first place, we can position our DHS and its employees to handle each case effectively and successfully. The Insitute will, as we always have, keep a keen eye on our state’s child abuse prevention dollars in the upcoming legislative session and give our policymakers the information they need to protect this critical funding in our state’s budget.

“We spend, and rightfully so, millions and millions of dollars putting these cable barriers up to prevent car accidents. If we’d spend 10 percent of that in trying to prevent child abuse, we’d greatly enhance the budget for prevention of child abuse in Oklahoma,” Charlie Swinton, VP Government Affairs at BancFirst, says in our video. “The more we can reach out and touch children early in life and give them a healthy environment to grow in, to me, it’s the most important thing because they are our future.”

Click this link to watch the second video in our Stories Matter series and hear what these and other community leaders have to say about Oklahoma’s child abuse prevention funding and the future of our state.