Nebraska children are neglected and abused at a higher rate than is occurring nationally, according to reports evaluated by Kids Count, an annual assessment of child welfare.

The state also removes children from their homes at nearly twice the national rate, said Voices for Children in Nebraska, the group that wrote the report.

In Nebraska, 10 children per 1,000 are considered “maltreated'' while the national rate is 9.1 per 1,000, according to the report, released Wednesday.

“Nebraska is seeing this more and more. We're getting worse,” said Melissa Breazile, research coordinator at Voices for Children in Nebraska.

According to the 2012 report, the annual average number of neglected or abused children in Nebraska from 2009 through 2011 was 5,169, compared with 3,265 from 2001 through 2003.

While the news is distressing, the child advocacy group official said, there is hope.

That's because Nebraska has a larger problem with child neglect than with sexual, physical and emotional abuse, which takes a greater toll nationally.

Voices for Children in Nebraska said 82 percent of reported abuse cases in the state involve neglect, compared with 76 percent nationally.

The growth in child poverty may be a factor, the report stated. In 2001, 54,967 Nebraska children were in poverty; as of 2009, that figure had grown to 67,346.

Breazile said the correlation between poverty and neglect gives the state broad options, because tackling the difficulties that poor families face could improve the welfare of their children.

The 20th annual Kids Count report made numerous policy recommendations for Nebraska officials, including:

» Boost financial assistance for food stamps and Medicaid, for example, to a level nearer national averages.

» Help more parents obtain treatment for their mental health and substance abuse problems.

» Eliminate “forensic” investigations of families who voluntarily seek help, so they'll be less fearful of turning to the system.

» Broaden the definition of kinship beyond blood ties so children taken from homes have a greater chance of being placed with people already connected to the family, such as godparents.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1102,

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