The Tennessee Joint Task Force on Children's Justice and Child Sexual Abuse (JTF) presents it biennial report on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse and severe abuse. Child sexual abuse is indiscriminate, affecting children across ethnic, socioeconomic, education, and religious lines. While Tennessee has made much progress in the handling of and response to child sexual abuse and severe abuse allegations through legislation that established Child Protective Investigative Teams (CPITs) in the 1980s and the creation of Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) in the 1990s, the JTF recognizes the need to better address other forms of maltreatment given that the vast majority of cases reported to the Department of Children's Services (DCS) are neglect-related. In 2015, the top three common types of maltreatment reported to DCS were lack of supervision, drug-exposed child, and environmental neglect. As in prior years, in Tennessee and across the country, neglect is still the most common type of child maltreatment. While other forms of maltreatment capture more attention than neglect, research has shown that neglect also has a lasting and debilitating effect on victims. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the short and long-term effects from child abuse and neglect include the following:
- Abuse and neglect during infancy or early childhood can cause regions of the brain to form and function improperly with long-term consequences on cognitive and language abilities, socioemotional development, and mental health.
- Children who experience abuse and neglect are at increased risk for adverse health effects and certain chronic diseases as adults, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, liver disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high levels of C-reactive protein.
- In one long-term study, as many as 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21.
- These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.
- Children who experience abuse and neglect are at increased risk for smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse as adults, as well as engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.
- Abused and neglected children are found to be at least 25% more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, and low academic achievement.
- Child abuse and neglect can have a negative effect on the ability of both men and women to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships in adulthood.
- The total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child abuse and neglect in the United States in 2008 was approximately $124 billion in 2010 dollars according to the Center for Disease Control.
Trauma during childhood can cause critical implications that may last throughout the lifespan. Building Strong Brains: Tennessee's ACEs Initiative (BSB) is an interdepartmental, public-private partnership focused on preventing and responding appropriately to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including all types of child maltreatment. The initiative includes a state appropriation for ACEs Innovation Grants and training-for trainers across Tennessee. BSB is working to change the culture in Tennessee utilizing brain science and communications science to prevent and respond appropriately to ACEs, raise public knowledge about ACEs, increase the potential for every child born in Tennessee to lead a healthy, productive life, and positively impact public policy.