Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect

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Learn More About Child Abuse and Neglect

Measures of Child Abuse and Neglect on
Child abuse and neglect indicators are broken into two broad categories: the rate of child abuse and neglect reports and the rate of substantiated cases. Generally speaking, most reports of child abuse are not in the end substantiated by Child Protective Services after an investigation. Typically, as the public becomes more aware of child maltreatment and how to report it, the rate of reports goes up. The rate of substantiated cases is generally a more accurate measure of the prevalence of abuse and neglect because it reflects verified reports. On, reports and substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect are provided overall, and by age, race/ethnicity, and type of abuse.
Child Abuse and Neglect
Dating and Domestic Violence
Disconnected Youth
Foster Care
Why This Topic Is Important
Children who are abused or neglected, including those who witness domestic violence, often exhibit emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal behavior, difficulty in school, use of alcohol and other drugs, and early sexual activity (1, 2). Abuse, particularly experienced when children are young, causes stress that can disrupt early brain and physical development, placing mistreated young children at higher risk for health problems as adults (2, 3). Children who are abused or neglected also are more likely to repeat the cycle of violence by entering into violent relationships as teens and adults or abusing their own children (1). An estimated 686,000 U.S. children were victims of maltreatment in 2012, and approximately 1,640 of these children died from abuse or neglect (7).

Child abuse and neglect are underreported and occur in families of all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups (4, 5). Major risk factors for child abuse/neglect victims include being under 4 years old and having special needs. Family and community risk factors include parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, major stress (e.g. poverty, social isolation), domestic violence, and unsafe neighborhoods (5, 6). Research shows that in 30% to 60% of homes with either domestic violence or child abuse cases, it is likely that both types of abuse are occurring (4).
For more information on child abuse see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (2014).
Child maltreatment: Consequences. Retrieved from:

3.  Middlebrooks, J. S., & Audage, N. C. (2008).
The effects of childhood stress on health across the lifespan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from:

4.  DePanfilis, D. (2006).
Child neglect: A guide for prevention, assessment, and intervention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

5.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (2014).
Understanding child maltreatment: Fact sheet. Retrieved from:

6.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (2014).
Child maltreatment: Risk and protective factors. Retrieved from:

7.  Children's Bureau. (2013). Child maltreatment 2012. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from:

How Children Are Faring
In 2013, there were 482,265 reports (allegations) of child abuse and neglect in California. Of those cases, 81,381, or 17%, were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system. Nearly 65% of these verified cases were due to general neglect, which includes cases where the parent, guardian, or caregiver failed to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurred. Neglect consistently has been the most common type of substantiated case statewide and in nearly all counties for which these data are available. California’s rate of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect declined from 12.0 cases per 1,000 children ages 0-17 in 1998 to 8.9 in 2013. Children ages 0-5 make up half of all substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect in California; they comprised 47% of all cases in 2013, up from 40% in 1998.

Statewide, child abuse and neglect cases disproportionately involve children of color, particularly African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children. For more information on racial disproportionality and inequities in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway and a recent synthesis of research on the issue. 
Policy Implications
Children at risk of maltreatment, and those already in the child welfare system, interact with a range of public and private systems that can help prevent child abuse, mitigate its effects, and help them obtain permanent, safe homes. Child maltreatment is a societal problem with substantial economic consequences for both individuals and communities (1). Policymakers have a role in helping to prevent child maltreatment, as well as in ensuring early detection and reporting of abuse and neglect.

According to research and subject experts, policies that could aid in the prevention of child abuse and neglect include:
  • Providing a range of prevention services, including accurate risk assessment, parenting education, and home-visiting services, to families with children at risk of abuse or neglect (3, 4, 5)
  • Implementing, expanding, and funding “differential response,” in which child protective service agencies have different levels of response to child abuse/neglect reports, depending on the severity of the allegations and the families’ particular needs; this approach recognizes the variation in the nature of reports, and the value of tailoring services to meet different needs (5)
  • Providing an accessible system of mental health services for children in foster care or at imminent risk of entering care (2), and creating incentives for child welfare agencies to ensure that young children in their care receive early assessments and referrals for mental health issues (6)
  • Supporting effective strategies to reduce the overrepresentation of children of color entering the child welfare system, especially African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children (7)
For more research to support policy on child abuse prevention and foster care, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, and California Fostering Connections. For implementation tools, see Child Welfare League of America.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Fang, X., et al. (2012). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(2), 156–165. Retrieved from:

2.  California Department of Social Services. Family Centered Services. (2013). Katie A. v. Bonta. Retrieved from:

3.  McLanahan, S., et al. (2009). Preventing child maltreatment. The Future of Children, Princeton-Brookings19(2). Retrieved from:

4.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Preventing child maltreatment through the promotion of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and caregivers. Retrieved from:

5.  Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2008). Differential response to reports of child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

6.  Cooper, J., et al. (2010). Addressing the mental health needs of young children in the child welfare system: What every policymaker should know. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from:

7.  Miller, O. (2009). Reducing racial disproportionality and disparate outcomes for children and families of color in the child welfare system. Casey Family Programs. Retrieved from:

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Child Abuse and Neglect