Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect

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Learn More About Child Abuse and Neglect

Measures of Child Abuse and Neglect on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org provides the number and rate of children ages 0-17 with one or more reports of abuse or neglect, along with the number and rate of children with maltreatment allegations verified as substantiated cases of abuse or neglect. Data on both allegations and substantiations of child maltreatment also are available by age group, by race/ethnicity, and by type of maltreatment.
Child Abuse and Neglect
Childhood Adversity and Resilience
Foster Care
Intimate Partner Violence
Why This Topic Is Important
An estimated one in four children experience abuse or neglect in the U.S. (1). Child maltreatment can cause serious physical injuries and even death (2). It also can cause lifelong physical, emotional, and behavioral problems, which can lead to intergenerational impacts (2). Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to have problems such as anxiety, depression, delinquency, difficulty in school, and early sexual activity (2). Child maltreatment (along with other adverse childhood experiences) can disrupt brain and physical development, particularly when experienced in early childhood, increasing the risk for numerous health problems in adulthood, including heart disease, cancer, substance abuse, mental illness, and suicidal behavior, among others (1, 2). While most victims do not repeat the cycle of abuse later in life, they are more likely to enter into unhealthy relationships as teens and adults and to mistreat their own children (2).

Beyond the impact on individuals and families, child abuse has a significant impact on society. The economic cost of nonfatal child maltreatment is estimated at $428 billion annually in the U.S., based on 2015 data (2).

While abuse and neglect occur in all types of families, certain factors place children at increased risk. For example, children under age 4 (especially infants) and those with special needs are at greatest risk for maltreatment (3, 4). Examples of family and community risk factors include substance abuse or mental illness in the family, social isolation, parenting stress, young parental age, poverty, domestic violence, and neighborhood violence (1, 3). Children of color, particularly American Indian/Alaska Native and African American children, are overrepresented in the child welfare system (4).
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Essentials for childhood: Creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/essentials.html

2.  Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. Retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long-term-consequences

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Child abuse and neglect: Risk and protective factors. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/riskprotectivefactors.html

4.  Rosenzweig, J. F. (n.d.). Understanding Child maltreatment 2016. American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Retrieved from: http://centerforchildpolicy.org/assets/UnderstandingChildMaltreatment2016.pdf
How Children Are Faring
In 2018, there were 486,634 California children ages 0-17 with reports (allegations) of child abuse or neglect. Of those, 68,773, or 14%, had one or more allegation substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system. Almost three-fourths (71%) of children with substantiated cases in 2018 suffered general neglect, which occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child but no physical injury occurs. Among types of verified and reported child maltreatment, neglect is consistently the most common statewide and in a majority of counties for which data are available. California's rate of substantiated abuse and neglect declined from 12 per 1,000 children in 1998 to 7.5 per 1,000 in 2018. Nearly half of California children with substantiated cases of maltreatment are ages 5 and younger—46% in 2018, up from 40% in 1998.

Statewide, child maltreatment allegations and substantiations disproportionately involve African American/black and American Indian/Alaska Native children. More than 120 per 1,000 children in these groups had a report of abuse or neglect in 2018 and at least 20 per 1,000 had a substantiated case of maltreatment. By comparison, rates of reported maltreatment among Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and white children were lower than 50 per 1,000 and rates of substantiated maltreatment were lower than 8 per 1,000.
Policy Implications
Child abuse and neglect are serious public health problems with substantial consequences for both the individuals affected and society as a whole (1). Increasingly, experts view child maltreatment in the broader context of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include abuse and neglect, exposure to violence, or other experiences that threaten a child's sense of stability and safety (2). ACEs can disrupt healthy brain development and have negative, lasting effects on health, well being, and life opportunities (2).

Children and youth 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 abuse and neglect, mitigate its effects, strengthen families, and ensure that children have safe, nurturing, permanent homes. Policymakers have a role in helping to prevent child maltreatment, as well as in ensuring early detection, reporting of maltreatment, effective child welfare system responses, and provision of appropriate services for victims and families. While California has made major strides in these areas, continued efforts are needed to ensure that all children are safe and have the opportunity to thrive (3, 4, 5).

Policy and practice options to help prevent, interrupt, and mitigate the effects of child maltreatment include:
  • Supporting policies that help reduce family stress and promote stable environments for children, e.g., policies to improve the social safety net for families in need, strengthen financial security, support family-friendly business practices, and ensure quality child care is affordable and accessible (1)
  • Supporting public education campaigns to promote social norms around positive parenting behaviors and children's welfare as a shared community responsibility (1)
  • Establishing consistent, effective trauma screening and referral systems in pediatric care and other settings (6)
  • Institutionalizing trauma-informed policies and practices (designed to address the effects of trauma and facilitate resilience and healing) for public and private systems and organizations; this should include workforce education to increase trauma-related knowledge and skills for all professionals who have direct contact with children (6, 7, 8)
  • Continuing to build a coordinated and comprehensive system of accessible, trauma informed, and culturally appropriate prevention services for families at risk of child abuse and neglect, including strength-based parent education, family support, home visiting, mental health, and substance abuse services; as part of this, ensuring that Family First Prevention Services Act resources are effectively integrated into the system (1, 7, 8, 9)
  • Supporting ongoing efforts to improve California's child welfare system, including strategies to reduce the overrepresentation of, and improve outcomes for, children of color in the system; in addition, strengthening laws and practices to protect and support LGBTQ youth in the system or at risk of entering it (4, 5, 10, 11)
  • Promoting collaboration across organizations and sectors (e.g., local and state government, education, health care, juvenile justice, child welfare, nonprofits, etc.) to address systemic barriers to preventing or addressing child maltreatment, including improving service coordination and data sharing (1)
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. Also see Foster Care and other topics related to Child and Youth Safety on kidsdata.org.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Essentials for childhood: Creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/essentials.html

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Preventing adverse childhood experiences: Leveraging the best available evidence. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/preventingACES-508.pdf

3.  Knecht, R. (2017). Understanding California's child welfare system: An overview for the behavioral health system. California Department of Social Services & California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions. Retrieved from: https://www.cibhs.org/webinar/understanding-californias-child-welfare-system

4.  California Department of Social Services. (2017). California child and family services review round 3: Program improvement plan. Retrieved from: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/CFS%20PPIB/CA_PIP_9_26_18.pdf?ver=2018-09-26-142912-117

5.  California Department of Social Services. (n.d.). Office of Child Abuse Prevention strategic plan 2015-2020. Retrieved from: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/child-welfare-program-improvement/federal-child-and-family-services-review

6.  Francis, L. (2019). Screening kids from birth to age 5 for trauma. Children Now. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/screeningfortraumabirth-5

7.  Dym Bartlett, J., & Steber, K. (2019). How to implement trauma-informed care to build resilience to childhood trauma. Child Trends. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/how-to-implement-trauma-informed-care-to-build-resilience-to-childhood-trauma

8.  California Department of Social Services, & California Department of Health Care Services. (n.d.). Pathways to mental health services: Core practice model guide. Retrieved from: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/childsworld/res/pdf/corepracticemodelguide.pdf

9.  Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2019). Supporting all families: Financing streams to support prevention programs. Retrieved from: https://cssp.org/resource/supporting-all-families

10.  Miller, O., & Esenstad, A. (2015). Strategies to reduce racially disparate outcomes in child welfare. Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. Retrieved from: https://cssp.org/resource/strategies-to-reduce-racially-disparate-outcomes-in-child-welfare

11.  Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2019). Advancing healthy outcomes: Eight ways to promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth involved with child welfare through FFPSA. Retrieved from: https://cssp.org/resource/advancing-healthy-outcomes-eight-ways-to-promote-the-health-and-well-being-of-lgbtq-youth-involved-with-child-welfare
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Child Abuse and Neglect