Parents going through foreclosure may see it as a nightmare, a broken promise of the American Dream. Many might try to hide the stress and the effects of foreclosure from their children to keep them from worrying. However, researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are saying that children may actually suffer because of foreclosure more than anyone.
According to a study conducted by CHOP’s PolicyLab and published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, there is a strong relationship between the rate of child physical abuse and local mortgage foreclosures. The study, titled “Local macroeconomic trends and hospital admissions for child abuse, 2000 to 2009,” found that overall physical abuse increased by 0.79 percent per year in the period between 2000 and 2009, while traumatic brain injury increased by 3 percent in the same time. This data, based on reports pulled from 38 children’s hospitals, stands in contrast to national child welfare data, which shows a decline in physical abuse.
“We were concerned that health care providers and child welfare workers anecdotally reported seeing more severe child physical abuse cases, yet national child protective services data indicated a downward trend,” said Joanne Wood, MD, MSHP, an attending physician at CHOP and lead author of PolicyLab’s report. “It’s well known that economic stress has been linked to an increase in child physical abuse, so we wanted to get to the bottom of the contrasting reports by formally studying hospital data on a larger scale.”
Researchers found that each 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in hospital admissions due to child physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in admissions due to traumatic brain injury suspected to be caused by abuse.
According to another report written by researcher Julia Isaacs for First Focus and the Brookings Institution, foreclosure affects more than eight million children in the United States: An estimated 2.3 million are living in homes that have already been foreclosed on, and another 6 million live in rented or owner-occupied homes at risk of foreclosure. Isaacs also points out that the information the report is based on focuses on outdated loan statuses for loans between 2004 and 2008; noting this, she calls the 8.3 million estimate “conservative.”
Physical abuse is not the only issue faced by children in families suffering from foreclosure. Isaac’s report cites research dating as far back as the Great Depression which shows that financially distressed parents are more likely to engage in harsher and less supportive parenting, making it more difficult for children to interact with others. Furthermore, studies found higher rates of emergency room visits in zip codes with high foreclosure rates, pointing to the physical toll taken by stress and the need to postpone medical expenses.
Analyzing the data of Isaac’s report and the Pediatrics study, Wood and the PolicyLab team called for more collaboration between child welfare agencies and hospitals so that both can have a better idea of the extent to which abuse occurs in communities hit hard by foreclosure. They also noted that public agencies working with vulnerable children and families would be better equipped to prevent abuse if they had better working knowledge of the risk factors.
“Two major themes emerge from this study,” said Wood. “First, we see a clear opportunity to use hospital data along with child welfare data to ensure a more complete picture of child abuse rates both locally and nationally. Second, the study identifies another economic hardship–mortgage foreclosures–that is associated with severe physical abuse. As the foreclosure crisis is projected to continue in the near future, these results highlight the need to better understand the stress that housing insecurity places on families and communities so that we can better support them during difficult times.”
Since its launch, DS News magazine has positioned itself at the forefront of an
evolving industry. Always current with the most up-to-date
default servicing news, DSNews.com keeps you informed through daily Web casts,
community forums, and a wide range of industry resources.