Child Abuse and Neglect Cases Decline, Deaths Rise

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The number of child abuse and neglect cases dropped slightly last year, for the third year in a row, but the number of children who died as a result or neglect or abuse rose slightly.

The numbers, released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families, are for the one-year period from Oct. 1, 2008 to Sept. 30, 2009, and only include those cases for which there were dispositions – which often occur months after an initial report.

Anecdotal  information had anticipated a rise in abuse and neglect because of the economic recession in the country. However, many of those cases would not have been resolved in time to be included in this survey.

Instead, the number of children who were abused or neglected dropped from 10.3 children per 1,000 children to 10.1 per 1.000 children.

Children under the age of one were most vulnerable, with a neglect or abuse rate of 20.6 per 1,000.

The number of children who died rose from 1,720 to 1,770; 80 percent of them were 3 or younger.  

Of the estimated 3.1 million referrals involving approximately 6 million children, slightly less than 62 percent were screened by child protective service workers.  Ultimately, one quarter of those children screened by CPS workers were found to be the victim of abuse or neglect.The largest percentage of children suffered from neglect – 78.3 percent – and about 10 percent had been sexually abused.

More than 80 percent of those maltreating the children were their own parents, with other relatives responsible for about 8 percent. Women (at 53.8 percent) were more likely to abuse or neglect children than men (at 44.4 percent).

The complete report may be found here.

  • Richard Wexler

    The annual “child maltreatment” reports count a child as maltreated as soon as a caseworker decides to check the relevant box on a form. This study does not wait for the entire case to be resolved.

    Typically, the time from launching an investigation to checking that box on a form is no more than 60 days. The recession was underway through all of 2009.

    So how, exactly, do you figure that “many of those cases [involving recession-induced maltreatment] would not have been resolved in time to be included in this survey”?

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform