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Changing family dynamics may contribute to child abuse, neglect - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Changing family dynamics may contribute to child abuse, neglect

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

While many were enjoying fireworks, the 4th of July holiday was a nightmare for others, with one child left dead, and another left alone for hours.

And those are just in Shreveport in less than a week.

Other recent, disturbing cases including the arrest of a Baton Rouge couple accused of leaving seven children unattended while they went shopping on the 4th.

And in North Little Rock, two people were charged with endangering the welfare of a minor for leaving an infant alone in a hot car over the weekend.

Cases like these prompted KTBS 3 News to ask the question -- how did we get to this point?

According to the Child Welfare League of America, there were 8,848 reported cases of child abuse or neglect in Louisiana in 2010.

"The [young parents] are trying to survive. They're trying to take care, but do they really know what to do?"

Nearly 82% of the children in those cases were victims of neglect, something that experts say can lead to devastating abandonment issues, but that's just for those who make it out alive.

"Those kids who really, really cling, they think mom isn't coming back," says Shreveport Addiction Specialist and Counselor Norma Whitaker.

Whitaker says young parents are often raising children alone, without ever having been taught how to be a responsible adult.

"We don't have that extended family where grandma is there telling you, 'you need to do this. You need to do that.'"

With the state's poverty rate for children under five sitting at 33%, Whitaker says everyday stresses can drive a parent without a support system to make decisions that aren't always in a child's best interest.

"If I know my child goes to sleep at 7 p.m., and usually sleeps all night long, in my mind, wait, I can go out for an hour or two, and destress myself and come back, and no one will ever know."

She says another break-down in many communities is that residents are no longer getting to know their neighbors.

She says being able to trust a neighbor with child care responsibilties lessens the burden on parents.

The LA Department of Children and Family Services offers a toll-free, 24-hour number to report child abuse or neglect.

That number is 1-855-4LA-KIDS, or 1-855-452-5437.

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