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- Definition: Number of substantiated cases of abuse and neglect for children under age 18 (e.g., in 2015, there were 74,327 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in California).Number of substantiated cases of abuse and neglect per 1,000 children under age 18 (e.g., in 2015, there were 8.2 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect per 1,000 California children).
- Data Source: Webster, D., et al. Child Welfare Services Reports for California, U.C. Berkeley Center for Social Services Research (Jun. 2016); Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT (Jul. 2016).
- Footnote: A child is counted only once (per year, per county). Data for California and counties include only "substantiated" cases, while data for the U.S. include "substantiated" as well as "indicated" and "alternative response victims." "Substantiated" means that the allegation was conclusively founded. "Indicated" means that the allegation could not be conclusively substantiated, but there was sufficient evidence to suspect maltreatment. LNE (Low Number Event) refers to data that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 20 substantiated cases of child abuse. N/A means that data are not available.
- Measures of Child Abuse and Neglect on Kidsdata.org
Child abuse and neglect indicators are broken into two broad categories: the incidence of child abuse and neglect reports and the incidence of substantiated cases. Generally speaking, most reports of child abuse/neglect are not 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 reliable measure of the prevalence of abuse and neglect because it reflects verified reports. On kidsdata.org, data on both reports and substantiated cases of abuse/neglect are provided overall, by age, by race/ethnicity, and by type of abuse.
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Births Outside of Marriage (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population, by County
- Total Population
- Public School Enrollment
- Childhood Adversity and Resilience
- Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported)
- Children Who Are Resilient (Parent Reported)
- Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)
- by Family Income (CA Only)
- by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Basic Needs Not Met, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Family Hunger
- Family Hunger, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Family Hunger, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Foster Care Placement
- Foster Care Placement, by Family Income (CA Only)
- Foster Care Placement, by Maternal Age (CA Only)
- Foster Care Placement, by Prenatal Insurance Coverage (CA Only)
- Foster Care Placement, by Race/Ethnicity (CA Only)
- Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (Adult Retrospective)
- Disconnected Youth
- Foster Care
- First Entries into Foster Care
- Children in Foster Care
- Median Number of Months in Foster Care
- Number of Placements After One Year in Foster Care
- Placement Distance from Home After One Year in Foster Care
- Exit Status One Year After Entry into Foster Care
- Exit Status Four Years After Entry into Foster Care
- Re-Entries into Foster Care
- Length of Time from Foster Care to Adoption
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Why This Topic Is Important
Child maltreatment can cause serious physical injuries and even death (1). Children who are abused or neglected, including those who witness domestic violence, also are more likely to experience cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, delinquency, difficulty in school, and early sexual activity (1, 2). In addition, child maltreatment can disrupt brain and physical development, particularly when experienced in early childhood, increasing the risk for health problems in adulthood, e.g., heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, and suicide, among others (1, 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 by abusing their own children (1).
Beyond the impact on individuals, child abuse has a significant impact on society; the total lifetime economic cost due to new child maltreatment cases in a single year is estimated at $124 billion in the U.S. (1, 3). An estimated 702,000 U.S. children were documented victims of maltreatment in 2014, and approximately 1,580 of these children died from abuse or neglect (4). These figures are considered underestimates, though, as child maltreatment is underreported (3).While abuse and neglect occur in all types of families, certain factors place children at increased risk. For example, children under age 4 and those with special needs are at greatest risk for maltreatment (5). Examples of family and community risk factors include substance abuse or mental illness in the family, social isolation, major stress (e.g., poverty), domestic violence, and unsafe neighborhoods (5).
For more information on child abuse and neglect, see kidsdata.org’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, Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long-term-consequences
2. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child abuse and neglect: Consequences. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/childmaltreatment/consequences.html
3. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2014). Understanding child maltreatment (Fact Sheet). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/understanding-cm-factsheet.pdf
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. (2016). Child maltreatment 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2014
5. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child maltreatment: Risk and protective factors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/childmaltreatment/riskprotectivefactors.html
- How Children Are Faring
In 2015, there were 500,976 reports (allegations) of child abuse and neglect in California. Of those, 74,327, or 15%, were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system. About two-thirds (67%) of verified cases were due to general neglect, which includes cases in which a 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 data are available. California’s rate of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect declined from 12 cases per 1,000 children ages 0-17 in 1998 to 8.2 in 2015. Children ages 0-5 make up nearly half of all substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect in California; they comprised 47% of all cases in 2015, 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 in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway or the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
- Policy Implications
Child abuse/neglect is a serious public health problem with substantial consequences for both the individuals affected and society as a whole (1). 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 ensure that children have safe, permanent homes. Policymakers have a role in helping to prevent child maltreatment, as well as in ensuring early detection, reporting of abuse and neglect, and providing appropriate services for victims. While California has made major strides in these areas in recent years, continued efforts are needed to ensure the safety of all children (2).
Policies and programs that could help prevent and address child abuse/neglect include:
For more research, policy, and program information related to child maltreatment, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.
- Continuing to ensure that effective prevention services are in place—including accurate risk assessment, parent education, family support, and home-visiting services—for families with children at risk of abuse or neglect (3, 4)
- Promoting ongoing efforts to increase collaboration across organizations and sectors (e.g., local and state government, education, health care, nonprofits, media, etc.) to ensure that all children have safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments; such efforts may focus on changing community norms, sharing and using data to inform policies and enhance programs, and improving service coordination, among other options (4, 5, 6)
- Supporting policies that help reduce family stress and promote stable environments for children, e.g., those that support low-income families, encourage self-sufficiency, and ensure that quality, affordable child care is available (4)
- Continuing efforts to provide an accessible system of mental health services for parents and children in foster care or at risk of entering foster care (4, 7)
- Continuing to implement “differential response,” in which child protective service agencies tailor responses to child abuse/neglect reports, depending on the severity of the allegations and the families’ particular needs (8)
- 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 (9)
Sources for this narrative:
1. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2014). Understanding child maltreatment (Fact Sheet). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/understanding-cm-factsheet.pdf
2. California Department of Social Services. (2015). California’s child welfare continuum of care reform. Retrieved from: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/entres/pdf/CCR_LegislativeReport.pdf
3. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child abuse and neglect: Prevention strategies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/prevention.html
4. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Essentials for childhood: Steps to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/essentials.html
5. Child Welfare League of America. (2013). National blueprint for excellence in child welfare. Retrieved from: http://www.cwla.org/our-work/cwla-standards-of-excellence/national-blueprint-for-excellence-in-child-welfare
6. California Child Welfare Council, Child Development and Successful Youth Transitions Committee. (2013). Building a system of support for young children in foster care. Retrieved from: http://www.chhs.ca.gov/Child%20Welfare/Young%20Children%20in%20Foster%20Care%20Full%20Report%20-%20Revised%20Nov%202013.pdf
7. California Department of Social Services, & California Department of Health Care Services. (2013). Pathways to mental health services: Core practice model guide. Retrieved from: http://www.childsworld.ca.gov/res/pdf/CorePracticeModelGuide.pdf
8. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Differential response to reports of child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/issue-briefs/differential-response
9. Miller, O., & Esenstad, A. (2015). Strategies to reduce racially disparate outcomes in child welfare. Center for the Study of Social Policy, Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. Retrieved from: http://www.cssp.org/publications/child-welfare?type=child_welfare_alliance_for_race_equity
- Websites with Related Information
- Administration for Children and Families: Abuse, Neglect, Adoption and Foster Care, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- California Dept. of Social Services: Office of Child Abuse Prevention
- California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
- Center for the Study of Social Policy: Child Welfare
- Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
- Chapin Hall: Child Welfare, University of Chicago
- Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Child Trends: Child Maltreatment/Child Welfare
- Child Welfare Information Gateway, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau
- Child Welfare League of America
- Children's Data Network, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
- State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center, First Focus
- Key Reports and Research
- 2018 California Children's Report Card, Children Now
- Advancing Healthy Outcomes: Eight Ways to Promote the Health and Well-Being of LGBTQ+ Youth Involved with Child Welfare through FFPSA, 2019, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Citrin, A., & Martin, M.
- Building Community Resilience Toolkit Series: Volume I, 2018, San Diego State University, Social Policy Institute, Pimental, K., et al.
- Child Maltreatment 2017, 2019, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau
- Child Welfare and Immigration: Implications for Funders, 2018, Youth Transition Funders Group, et al., Desai, N., & Adamson, M.
- Disproportionality, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California, 2013, California Child Welfare Council, Walker, K.
- Essentials for Childhood: Creating Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments, 2019, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- Family First Prevention Services Act, 2019, National Conference of State Legislatures
- Home Visiting Is a Valuable Investment in California’s Families, 2018, California Budget & Policy Center, Hutchful, E.
- How the Child-Welfare System Could Protect More Kids and Save Billions of Dollars, 2018, RAND Review, Irving, D.
- How to Implement Trauma-informed Care to Build Resilience to Childhood Trauma, 2019, Child Trends, Dym Bartlett, J., & Steber, K.
- Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2019, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Ongoing Pediatric Health Care for the Child Who Has Been Maltreated, 2019, Pediatrics, Flaherty, E., et al.
- Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm, and Programmatic Activities, 2016, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fortson, B. L., et al.
- Screening Kids from Birth to Age 5 for Trauma, 2019, Children Now, Francis, L.
- Strategies to Reduce Racially Disparate Outcomes in Child Welfare, 2015, Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, Miller, O., & Esenstad, A.
- Strengthening Child Welfare Practice for Immigrant Children & Families: A Toolkit for Child Welfare Professionals in California, 2019, Prandini, R., et al.
- Subsequent Maltreatment in Children with Disabilities After an Unsubstantiated Report for Neglect, 2016, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Kistin, C. J., et al.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2018-19 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being, Children Now
- 2019 Santa Clara County Children's Data Book, Santa Clara County Office of Education & Kids in Common
- Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County, Orange County Children's Partnership
- Commercially Sexually Exploited Girls and Young Women Involved in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice in Los Angeles County, 2018, National Center for Youth Law & California State University, Los Angeles, Dierkhising, C. B., et al.
- Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan, Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health
- Connecting the Dots: Snapshots of Child Well-Being in Los Angeles County, Children's Data Network
- Important Facts About Kern’s Children, Kern County Network for Children
- Live Well San Diego Report Card on Children, Families, and Community, 2017, The Children's Initiative & Live Well San Diego
- Orange County Community Indicators Report, Orange County Community Indicators Project
- San Mateo County All Together Better, San Mateo County Health
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- Youth Need Data, Get Healthy San Mateo County
- More Data Sources For Child Abuse and Neglect
- California Child Welfare Indicators Project, UC Berkeley Center for Social Services Research & California Dept. of Social Services
- California Dept. of Social Services Data Portal
- Child Trends Databank: Children's Exposure to Violence
- Children’s Bureau: Statistics and Research, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- Children's Exposure to Violence, Crime, and Abuse: An Update, 2015, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Finkelhor, D., et al
- KIDS COUNT Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect
- State-Level Data for Understanding Child Welfare in the United States, Child Trends
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