December 9, 2011
It’s easy enough to make the leap that the large military population in the Pikes Peak region contributes more than its fair share of child abuse and neglect cases. After all, parents are coming home stressed from combat. Some have PTSD, or traumatic brain injuries. Many are young and struggling financially — proven predictors of abusive or neglectful behavior.
But those in the local child welfare field say the number of cases coming out of the military does not account for a disproportionate share of the overall caseload.
“The percentage of military cases we get coincides with the military in our population,” said Karen Logan, child welfare manager for the El Paso County Department of Human Services.
The number of military cases handled by the child advocacy group CASA of the Pikes Peak Region also isn’t too far out of line with the overall military population, said spokeswoman Tracy Sellars.
There is no precise count of how many active-duty military and family members are in the Pikes Peak region, but the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments estimates that it’s about 85,000 individuals, with most tied to Fort Carson. That figure includes those who are deployed. Since late 2008, 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers have been deployed at any given time.
The most recent census puts the county’s population at roughly 622,000, so the military accounts for about 13.6 percent of the overall population.
Statistics from DHS show that in 2010, the military accounted for 9.4 percent of the reports of suspected abuse and neglect coming into its hotline, and 10.5 percent so far this year. And of the seven child deaths from abuse or neglect in the county in 2010, one involved a military family.
At CASA, about 11 percent of the participants in a program that serves abused and neglected children came from the military, Sellars said.
Although the military doesn’t account for a large proportion of cases, child advocates say military families face unique circumstances that can require special services to address their needs. Earlier this year, DHS created a new unit to work with the military, and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments has been leading an effort to deal with an increased demand for behavioral health, social and other services because of the growth of the military population.