Child Abuse and Neglect
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Child maltreatment is a tragic, but common, problem in the United States. As a result, there are nearly 2,000 tragic child deaths a year. Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, states can transparently investigate and report such cases and publicly disclose deaths stemming from child maltreatment. Some states have recently amended statutes to improve transparency regarding the reporting of fatal or near-fatal child maltreatment cases.
Download the Excel Version of the Table: "Child Abuse Fatalities"
Child maltreatment presents an egregious social and economic problem to the United States.
- Prevent Child Abuse America, a Chicago-based nonprofit with 47 state chapters, estimated that child abuse and neglect affects more than 1 million children every year.
Child abuse will cost the U.S. more than $80 billion in 2012, or nearly $220 million daily.1 This includes:
- About $33 billion in estimated direct costs, such as acute medical treatment, mental health care, the child welfare system—about $29 billion alone - and law enforcement.
- Almost $47 billion in estimated indirect costs, including the adult criminal justice system, which costs about $32.7 billion.2
- Additionally, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found lifetime costs associated with one year of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect to be roughly $124 billion, which includes costs related to short- and long-term medical care, productivity losses, child welfare, criminal justice and special education.3
- The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System estimated that 1,770 children died of abuse or neglect in 2009.4
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated child deaths due to abuse or neglect were distributed nearly evenly between boys and girls in 2007.
- White children accounted for 41.1 percent of fatalities, African-Americans accounted for 26.1 percent, and Hispanics accounted for 16.9 percent.5
- Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the federal law that provides funds to states for the prosecution and investigation of child abuse, states may publicly report maltreatment cases resulting in fatality or near-fatality. Not all states, however, exercise this option.
- Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow public disclosure of information in fatal or near-fatal cases.6
- Five states require the suspected perpetrator to be either arrested or criminally charged before public disclosure. Three states require the alleged perpetrator to be criminally charged with causing the fatal or near-fatal incident before public disclosure.7
- Since 2008, Maine, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah amended their statutes to mandate public disclosure of fatal or near-fatal cases.8
- Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Dakota have provided greater specificity and scope, such as the race and contact information of the caretaker, to the information that will be publicly disclosed in fatal or near-fatal cases since 2008.9
- In addition to public disclosure of fatal or near-fatal cases, Wisconsin mandates public disclosure when a child in out-of-home care placement is suspected of having committed suicide.10
- Thirty states and the District of Columbia improved their performance from 2008 to 2012.12
- The performance of 16 states, however, remained the same, while the performance of four states worsened.13
1 Gelles, Richard J., & Perlman, Staci. “Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect.” Prevent Child Abuse America. April 2012.
3 Fang, X. et al., “The economic burden of children maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention.” Child Abuse and Neglect February 2012.
4 United States Government Accountability Office. “Child Fatalities from Maltreatment – National Data Could Be Strengthened.” July 12, 2011.
5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Child Maltreatment 2007.
6 United States Department of Health and Human Services. “Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records: Summary of State Laws.” June 2010.
8 Children’s Advocacy Institute. “State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.” University of San Diego School of Law. 2012.
10 Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. “2009 Wisconsin Act 78 – Child Welfare Public Disclosure.”
11Children’s Advocacy Institute. State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S. Universityof San Diego School of Law. Grading criteria includes: 1) policy for public disclosure, 2) codification of policy in state, 3) accessibility of information, 4) scope of released information, and 5) open vs. close maltreatment proceedings.
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