Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Clipper Says: Poverty 'alive and well' in Davis County

Davis County Clipper
By Tom Busselberg

BOUNTIFUL - Poverty and child abuse are "alive and well" in Davis County. That was the message to Davis Chamber of Commerce members, Thursday, from Sharon Anderson, executive director of the Family Connection Center. That non-profit agency, which centers its efforts on trying to eradicate both issues, has crisis nurseries in Bountiful and Clearfield, as well as a food bank in Layton. "In Davis County last year there were 998 substantiated child abuse cases," and more than 2,000 other such cases, she said. Four out of the eight deaths in the state attributed to child abuse, in 2005, took place in Davis County, she continued. There were more than 1,200 divorces in the county in 2004, Anderson said, with a Utah State University study indicating the related statewide cost was nearly $300 million.

Due to such issues as child abuse and divorce, some children are taken into the foster care program, she said. Some 126 kids are in foster care, and at a basic cost of $14.75 a day, that generates a cost of $732,000 a year.

Domestic violence in the homes of children often leads to placing children elsewhere, with more than 1,100 such cases reported last year in the county, Anderson continued.

Safe Harbor, the domestic violence shelter, provided temporary haven for 288 women and 279 children in the January-September 2005 period, she said.

Homelessness in Davis County doesn't mean men sleeping on the streets, but it is a real concern, Anderson said.

The Davis School District reports there are 1,400 of its 62,000 or so students who are classified as homeless, she said. "Most are not living on the streets, but they are moving from one place to another more than three times a year."

In fact, in many schools, the mobility rate is well over 80 percent, and sometimes exceeds 100 percent. Schools in both North and South Davis are impacted. It's not due only to Hill Air Force Base transfers, as some might expect, she emphasized.

"It's a terrible thing," some elementary school students told Anderson when they heard of such statistics, recently. "They won't learn a lot," those same children said, referring to students constantly relocating to new schools.

More efforts must be put into looking at the grass roots problems and trying to solve them, she said. That way, it might not be so necessary to spend $25 million on a jail expansion, at a cost of $60 to $70 a day per inmate, and far more to house prisoners at Point of the Mountain.

"What happens in childhood affects adulthood," Anderson emphasized, referring to a study of 18,000 people conducted by a large health care agency.

In fact, the president of the American Medical Association asserted that if child abuse could be cut or eliminated, the nation's $1.6 trillion medical bill could be reduced by one-fifth, she said.

"Everyone is paying for this. What would a community be like if we didn't have any of these problems?" She asked the audience to ponder that dream.

The FCC was founded in 1985 and served more than 14,000 people in Davis County, last year. More than 10,000 people used the center's food bank alone, she said.

It serves as the county's community action agency, providing services ranging from homeless assistance and education to therapy and other classes.

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