Child Maltreatment 2010 Released

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) annually releases national data on child abuse and neglect. The latest Child Maltreatment provides analysis of the Federal Fiscal Year 2010 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) data. The report shows the number of children who were maltreated continues to decline from and estimated 702,000 victims in 2009 to 695,000 children in 2010.  The rate of children who were found to be victims has been decreasing for a number of years. Between 2003 and 2006, the rate fluctuated between 12.2 and 11.9 per 1,000 children compared to 10.6 per 1,000 children for 2007, 10.3 in 2008, 10.1 in 2009, and 10 in 2010. (To make this historical comparison, the reported rates reflect a duplicate count or the number of victimizations, because some children were victims more than once in the year.) The number of foster care entries increased by 4,103 from 212,337 in 2009 to 216,440 in 2010, which may be partly due to reporting differences.

An estimated 3.3 million referrals of possible abuse and neglect cases were made to state child protective services (CPS) agencies in the U.S., with less than two-thirds (or 1,793,724 million) of the referrals accepted by child protective services (CPS) resulting in an investigation or assessment. Teachers, law enforcement and social services staff are most likely to report abuse or neglect. From there, 436,321 children were substantiated as abused or neglected. Of the substantiated reports, the majority (78.3 percent) involved neglect.  Often a surprise to those unfamiliar with the problem of child maltreatment, child neglect is the most common reason for children coming into care each year. The impact of this type of maltreatment can be more damaging than physical abuse, especially for younger children. However, it is harder to document in order for the child welfare system to respond.

Despite evident progress from policy, program and procedure improvements, the need for systemic reform is evident in that 38.8% of child victims did not receive any services. Reasons for this include the way in which data is collected, how states provide services, and in some instances the reluctance on the part of some families to access services. Still, the lack of response for such a high and consistent percentage of maltreated children indicates that services are not being adequately provided at the front end of the child welfare system. In addition, the youngest children continue to have the highest victimization rate at 20.6 per 1,000 children in the population, the same as in 2009. The youngest children are also at the greatest risk of death, with more than three-quarters (79.4%) of the children who died from maltreatment in 2010 being age 3 or younger.The total estimated number of children who died as a result of maltreatment decreased by approximately 210 to 1,560, though it is important to recall recent evidence indicating this is an undercount.

NCANDS information is collected from states voluntarily in response to requirements in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA; P.L. 111-320) and is gathered from child protective services (CPS) cases and aggregated state data. Fifty-two states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico submitted the data for the 2010 report, with only one state providing aggregate data instead of case level data.

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