Ben Tanzer Op-Ed

When we watch the profoundly moving documentary Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go a key issue we need to recognize is that when all children don't have equal opportunity for growth and development we put our future as a society at risk.

Fortunately, in watching the children and staff at the Mulberry Bush School we are reminded that we know how to do better because focusing on innovative programming that lay the foundation for children's later growth and development reduces the possibility of more serious problems from occurring later on.

The fact is, when we invest in healthy child development, we are investing in community and economic development. Unfortunately, children are sometimes exposed to extreme and sustained stress like child abuse and neglect, which can undermine a child's development. This toxic stress damages the developing brain and adversely affects an individual's learning and behavior, as well as increases susceptibility to physical and mental illness.

Research shows a strong correlation between child abuse and neglect and debilitating and chronic health consequences. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, found that individuals who experienced child maltreatment were more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as smoking, substance abuse and sexual promiscuity, and to suffer from adverse health effects such as obesity and certain chronic diseases.

Further, Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that implementing effective policies and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect can save taxpayers $104 billion per year. The cost of not doing so includes more than $33 billion in direct costs for foster care services, hospitalization, mental health treatment, and law enforcement. Indirect costs of over $70 billion include loss of productivity, as well as expenditures related to chronic health problems, special education, and the criminal justice system.

As these studies demonstrate, getting prevention right early is less costly to society, and to individuals, than trying to fix things later. Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go brings a fresh perspective to this argument and we welcome its inclusion in the conversation.

Ben Tanzer is the director of strategic communications at Prevent Child Abuse America.