04 August 2009

Severe Child Maltreatment: All Too Real For Our Youngest Children

This morning, The Memphis Child Advocacy Center will raise a flag in memory of 3-year-old Zarkkavvon Craft. Zarkkavvon died as a result of severe burns; and his mother’s boyfriend has been charged with first degree murder in perpetration of aggravated child abuse, neglect, or endangerment. The Child Advocacy Center has raised the flag for 33 children since 2005 – ninety four percent of the kids memorialized were age 4 or younger. Zarkkavvon is the fourth child memorialized in 2009.

As this story makes all too clear, too many young children in our community are exposed to maltreatment. In 2008 alone, 881 Shelby County children under age 6 were identified by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services for abuse and/or neglect (DCS, 2008). The Child Advocacy Center, who raises the memorial flag for any child in Shelby County who dies as a result of maltreatment, has raised the flag for 33 children since 2005- 94% of the children memorialized were age 4 or younger (Wight, 2009).

Even when it does not lead to death, abuse and neglect in early childhood hampers the healthy growth of the synaptic bonds in the mind that are crucial to cognitive functioning and socio-emotional health. Abuse and neglect heightens a child’s chance of fostering maladaptive and criminal behavior, as well as dependency issues. A maltreated youngster is not completely unable to develop productive relationships and behaviors in adulthood; however, the effects of abuse and neglect on healthy growth can have lasting ramifications if not effectively addressed (Cohen, 2009).

What Can You Do?

Tennessee law requires all persons to make a report when they suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation of children. If you suspect any form of child maltreatment, please call the Tennessee Central Intake Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004 or visit https://reportabuse.state.tn.us/. Contact 911 if the situation is a life-threatening emergency.

For more information on the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, the services they provide, and volunteer opportunities, please contact Beryl Wight, Community Relations Associate, at bwight@memphiscac.org.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.


Cohen, J. (2009, February). Securing a Bright Future: Infants and Toddlers in Foster Care. ZERO TO THREE Policy Center: Washington, DC.

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. CPS Data 2002-2008. Independent analysis conducted by The Center for Urban Child Policy.

Wight, B. (2009, August 3). Personal communication.

No comments: