Mental Health and Child Abuse: Couple Abuses Foster Child in Dallas County

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Selma, AL– A couple is Selma, AL was arrested on the Thursday before Halloween for allegedly abusing their foster child. The Selma Times Journal reports that 25-year-old Lee Wiggins and 30-year-old Kalehua Wiggins were arrested after the school their child attended contacted police for suspected child abuse.

The victim was a 13-year-old special needs child. According to Selma Police Lt. Sam Miller, the child had significant bruising on her arms, legs, and buttocks. The child told officers that her foster parents beat her.

According to The National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence (NCCAFV), Parental substance abuse is a major factor contributing to child abuse and neglect. This connection is the subject of a new booklet by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). Research found that more than 8 million children live with parents who are substance abusers. Substance abuse exists in 40 to 80 percent of families in which the children are victims of abuse.

The CWLA also found that children whose substance-abusing parents do not receive appropriate treatment are more likely to remain in foster care longer and to reenter foster care once they have returned home. Children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.

Parents’ abuse of alcohol and other drugs can lead to a cycle of addiction, which is reflected by high rates of alcoholism and other substance abuse among children of addicts. Substance abuse among youth leads to a domino effect of problems in school, involvement in juvenile justice, teen pregnancy, and mental and emotional turmoil.

According the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), children with alcoholic parents are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, antisocial behavior, relationship difficulties, behavioral problems, and/or alcohol abuse. One recent study finds that children of drug-abusing fathers have the worst mental health issues.

Moreover, NCADD suggests that children of alcoholics may experience any of the following: chaos, uncertainty, instability, inconsistent discipline, emotional and physical neglect, arguments, instability of parents’ marriage, disorganization, violence and/or physical and sexual abuse, emptiness, loneliness, the terror of repeated abandonment, or the witnessing of violence or abuse to others. The family environment may be characterized by tension, fear, and shame–feelings that become connected with the child’s sense of self

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 702,000 children were confirmed by child protective services as being victims of abuse and neglect in 2014. At least one in four children have experienced child neglect or abuse (including physical, emotional, and sexual) at some point in their lives, and one in seven children experienced abuse or neglect in the last year.

The effects of child abuse can last a lifetime. Child abuse can be a contributing factor to low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. Abuse can also impede mental, social, and psychological development. Overall, the effects of child abuse occur now and later.

The CDC states that some of the effects of child abuse include improper brain development, impaired cognitive (learning ability) and socio-emotional (social and emotional) skills, lower language development, blindness, cerebral palsy from head trauma, higher risk for heart, lung and liver diseases, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, anxiety, smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse.

The NCCAFV defines child abuse as any behavior directed toward a child by a parent, guardian, care giver, other family member, or other adult, that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development.

Child abuse and neglect is a national problem which has increased to epidemic proportions in the United States. NCCAFV suggests that more than 2.5 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States annually with hundreds of deaths related to child abuse reported each year.

The CDC reports that 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. Those with a history of child abuse and neglect are 1.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs, especially marijuana, in middle adulthood.

Studies have found abused and neglected children to be at least 25% more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, and low academic achievement. Similarly, a longitudinal study found that physically abused children were at greater risk of being arrested as juveniles, being a teen parent, and less likely to graduate high school.

Children with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities or chronic illnesses may be at greater risk of maltreatment. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), parents or caregivers of children with disabilities are more likely to experience high levels of stress, depression and anger. In addition, children with disabilities may not understand that abusive behaviors are inappropriate and are unable to defend themselves.

To report an incident of child abuse call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources.

The mission of COSA-NCADD is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of the disease of alcoholism, other drug addiction diseases, and related problems. For more information about COSA- NCADD call 334-262-1629 or visit

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