Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2009

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Amidst a worsening economy that many feared would heighten the demand for child welfare services in 2009, the number of substantiated abuse and neglect cases was down in that year, according to research from the Crimes Against Children Research Center.

“Despite the worsening economic conditions in 2009, newly released national child maltreatment data for 2009 do not show an increase in substantiated maltreatment,” stated the report, which used federally collected data and was authored by David Finkelhor, Lisa Jones, and Anne Shattuck. “Overall substantiated child maltreatment actually declined 2 percent from the previous year, including a 5 percent decline in sexual abuse.”

Essentially, the entire decrease is because of  declines in sexual abuse; physical abuse and neglect claims stayed at roughly the same level. The total number of substantiated maltreatment cases was 763,000, which the study authors say is the lowest number recorded since the federal data collection system was put in place in 1990.

The majority of states experienced declines in abuse. Thirty-two saw a drop in sexual abuse cases, 21 had physical abuse declines, and 29 states reported fewer neglect cases. There were 15 states where all three types of maltreatment declined.

Some states experienced significant upticks from 2008. Five states saw sexual abuse cases rise by more than 10 percent, eight states saw such increases in physical abuse, and 10 states reported increases of more than 10 percent in neglect.

Nevada, in particular, had a tough year. Neglect cases were down 16 percent, but sexual abuse rose 50 percent and physical abuse rose 38 percent.

Although half of the states reported a lower number of child maltreatment fatalities in 2009, the total increased from 1,628 in 2008 to 1,671 in 2009. Much of the increase was in Texas, where fatalities jumped from 223 in 2008 to 279 in 2009. Fatalities in Arizona nearly tripled, up to 30 from 11.

Click here to read the report.