Anna Oris, For The Miami Student

Since 2008, the number of child abuse cases in Butler County has decreased. In 2007, the Butler County Commissioners released a statement indicating that the county was dedicated to improving child services, according to Butler County Services Statistical Analyst Shannon Glendon.

Looking at the four categories of abuse – physical, emotional, neglect and sexual – overall numbers have decreased. However, physical abuse still accounts for a majority of the child abuse cases.

Restructuring caseload requirements, new screening guidelines and switching the agency to a new model may be a few of several reasons that Butler County has seen a decrease in the rate of child abuse cases, according to Glendon.

Glendon said the largest drop from 2008 to 2010 was in the category of neglect. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, neglect is the failure by a parent or caretaker to meet a child’s basic needs – such as love, safety, food, and warmth – in a way that affects the child’s health, development or safety. In 2008 in Butler County, the amount of reported neglect cases was 1,096. In 2010, it dropped to just 906 cases.

Glendon said a new screening document may be one reason for the decrease. The new document used for screening cases is more universal than in the past.

“This document kind of puts guidelines in place so everyone is looking at the same information of what cases are screened in or screened out,” Glendon said.

For example, all cases must include a child being impacted by a situation. It is not enough to simply report that a mother has tested positive for marijuana, until the child is at risk from this situation.

Another change Glendon recognized was the county has switched from risk assessment models to a model that looks at safety and risk differently.

“We look at safety,” Glendon said. “We focus on what is happening to this child to put them in immediate danger.”

Miami University senior family studies major Christine Uhl said she believes the numbers may have dropped because of the overall awareness of the issue.

“There have been more prevention and treatment programs that people have become aware of,” Uhl said.

Awareness may be key because Butler County’s decrease in child abuse cases has led the county to be chosen as one of 33 pilot counties to test out a new program called Differential Response (also called Alternative Response) this summer.

Glendon said Differential Response is a different way of servicing families that have abuse and neglect referrals, mainly focusing on low-risk families. It is mainly for neglect issues and the county will not identify perpetrators or victims, which is very different than the county’s normal model.

“We are just going to families and being transparent – asking what there is that we can do,” Glendon said. “This program will never replace what we do, but will just be in addition to what we do.”