The death of a child is never easy to comprehend, especially when a parent or guardian is responsible for the child’s death.
According to a study by the Action for Children North Carolina (formerly N.C. Child Advocacy Institute), between 2001 and 2010, 10 children associated with Fort Bragg died in the care of a parent or caregiver and the State of North Carolina had a total of 251 homicides by a parent/caregiver of children from birth through 10 years of age.
“About once every two weeks for the last quarter century, a child has died at the watch of a caregiver or parent. Along with those numbers, Cumberland and Onslow counties, both heavily populated by military, child homicide happens more than twice the rate as the other (98) counties,” explained Tom Vitaglione, senior fellow at Action for Children. “And that is the bed news, but the encouraging news is that these rates are lower than the previous study (which covered 1985 to 2000) — the rate dropped by 16 percent for military Families in Cumberland County, while in the civilian community, it dropped 9 percent.”
This is good news because this means that the education and training that the military provides to Soldiers and their Families is helping and will hopefully mark the end of homicides.
Fort Bragg continues to work and reach out to any organization that is willing to help in the reduction and elimination of child homicides, including the sharing of their findings and program ideas. All child homicides involving a military Family are thoroughly reviewed by Fort Bragg and shared.
According to Fort Bragg’s Child Fatality reviews, there is no correlation between child homicides by a parent/caregiver and the large number of deployments between 2001 and 2010. All the victims during that time frame were under the age of 5, and 6 were under the age of 2.
They found that the primary offenders were step-parents or caregivers followed by Soldiers. Other leading factors in child abuse/homicide rates are failures in the medical screening process, mental health issues of parent(s) and substance abuse.
One of Fort Bragg’s many goals for Family advocacy is to stop abuse before it happens, before it hurts a Family member, or a Soldier. To address the problem, Fort Bragg has many programs in place to educate military Families in an effort to mitigate risk factors in their homes and lives.
Fort Bragg officials stress that no Soldier’s career will be adversely affected for seeking help with mental health issues or substance abuse. However, once a Soldier assaults a Family member, they will be held accountable for their actions.
The Army Family Advocacy Program, which is part of Army Community Service, has the mission to help strengthen relationships of parents and Families though a wide variety of prevention, outreach, and treatment programs.
Military chaplains and Womack Army Medical Center are also excellent sources of information and assistance for Soldiers and Family members who seek help.
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series.)