Here are some startling statistics that illustrate how child abuse has become an urgent health crisis: in 2014, deaths from child abuse and neglect exceeded deaths caused by childhood cancers. Nationally, 700,000 children were victims of child maltreatment in 2014, and Minnesota counties reported 70,000 cases of abuse and neglect that same year.
While those are alarming numbers, there is other, equally disconcerting data. In the U.S., we are facing a critical shortage of pediatricians who are specialty trained in child abuse. Nationally, there are 324; Minnesota has only four board-certified child abuse pediatricians in practice. Of those 324 pediatricians, 30 percent are over the age of 55. Clearly the need for trained specialists is paramount.
A multidisciplinary medical response
As a responsive grantmaking organization, we listen carefully to those in communities we serve, strive to understand the range of solutions that can be applied to a problem, and seek partners that have the best resources to improve and impact lives. That led us to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and the ground-breaking work they are doing to develop a multidisciplinary medical response to treat victims of child abuse and neglect.
In collaboration with colleagues at Hennepin County Medical Center and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, they have developed the first regional program of its kind providing a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to clinical care for children and adolescents experiencing abuse and neglect. Today, it serves as a leader in providing a much needed specialty resource for our region, serving more than 350 children and families annually.
Through a $2.5 million grant, we hope the Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children will be transformative in providing a financial foundation to help treat abused and neglected children, educate the next generation of child abuse pediatricians, and provide telehealth educational and clinical support for medical providers and community partners throughout the region.
Pediatric fellowship program
The center will lead the child abuse pediatric fellowship program – the only one in Minnesota, North Dakota, or South Dakota – which trains future leaders in the field. A relatively new subspecialty, child abuse pediatrics focuses on diagnosing and treating children and adolescents who are suspected victims of any form of child maltreatment. These physicians work closely with law enforcement, child welfare, the judicial system, and community agencies on the health, safety and well-being of children.
We believe the center’s work is a natural fit with our own mission of being responsive to community needs and investing in people and programs that are having an impact in addressing critical social issues. We also hope that by making this investment, we will inspire other individuals and organizations to see that value in the work the center is doing and step forward to help provide support of its important mission.
Charlotte Johnson, Brian Lipschultz and Daniel Reardon are co-CEOs and trustees, Otto Bremer Trust. In 2015, Otto Bremer Trust, St. Paul, awarded more than $45 million in grants and program-related investments to more than 500 organizations in the region.
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