Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect, by Age

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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 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, 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
Childhood Adversity and Resilience
Disconnected Youth
Foster Care
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’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:

2.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child abuse and neglect: Consequences. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

3.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2014). Understanding child maltreatment (Fact Sheet). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

4.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. (2016). Child maltreatment 2014. Retrieved from:

5.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child maltreatment: Risk and protective factors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:
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:
  • 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)
For more research, policy, and program information related to child maltreatment, see’s Research & Links section, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.

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:

2.  California Department of Social Services. (2015). California’s child welfare continuum of care reform. Retrieved from:

3.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2016). Child abuse and neglect: Prevention strategies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

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:

5.  Child Welfare League of America. (2013). National blueprint for excellence in child welfare. Retrieved from:

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:

7.  California Department of Social Services, & California Department of Health Care Services. (2013). Pathways to mental health services: Core practice model guide. Retrieved from:

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:

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