April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

As a result of congressional action, April has been proclaimed National Child Abuse Prevention Month since 1983. The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children’s Bureau coordinates Child Abuse Prevention Month activities at the Federal level.

To raise awareness, CWLA will be taking to social media to share #PositiveParenting tips. These #KidTips are intended to help all caregivers successfully nurture children in ways that are consistent with their developmental abilities. Follow CWLA on Facebook and Twitter and share our #CAPMonth content widely. Parenting is a tough, high stress job and frustration can sneak up on the best of us. Make it your responsibility to prevent child maltreatment and promote child well-being by helping us share knowledge about normal child development and effective parenting skills.


National child abuse data is found in the Children’s Bureau’s (CB) Child Maltreatment reports.  In December 2013, the CB released the most recent, 2012 edition.

The numbers were similar to 2011 with 3.4 million referrals or reports to Child Protective Services (CPS). Total referrals included 6.3 million children (some reports include more than one child; for example, siblings). These referrals are screened by local CPS according to state standards and definitions and as result 2.1 million of the referrals were screened in for further evaluation. CPS workers then conduct an investigation again based on that state’s definition and standards. In 2012 678,810 children were “substantiated” as being victims of child abuse and neglect. This figure is an unduplicated count of children. The number is adjusted to 686,000 children because some state data is missing and an estimate is made for all 50 states. When less than 50 states report data in any of the categories, the annual report will project total figures to all fifty states. The number of substantiated children is close to 2011 numbers with the rate of child maltreatment at 9.2 children per 1000.

There were an estimated 1,640 children who died due to maltreatment. This total is the highest figure since 2009 when 1,740 children died due to maltreatment. Many argue that actual child deaths are much higher. This is due to the varying ways a state may collect data. For example, if a child died but there are no siblings or other children in the family and there was no earlier involvement by CPS, that child death may not be included in this child death number. The rate of child deaths was 2.20 per 100,000 children, a rate that is also the highest since 2009. Consistent with previous years, 70 percent of child deaths were children under three years of age. The rate of child deaths is most severe for children under the age of one: in 2012 the rate was 18.8 per 100,000 children under the age of one. The victimization rate was higher for boys than girls with 2.54 deaths per 100,000 boys and 1.94 per 100,000 girls.

Seventy-eight percent of child maltreatment victims in 2012 were victims of neglect, 18.3 percent were victims of physical abuse and 9.3 percent were victims of sexual abuse. In terms of sexual abuse by age, 26 percent of the victims were 12 to 14 years of age, 20.9 percent were 15 to 17 years of age, and 19.4 percent were nine through 11 years of age. Eighty-two percent of the perpetrators of maltreatment were between the ages of 18 through 44 years and 3 percent were under the age of 18. Eighty percent of perpetrators were parent(s) with nearly 89 percent of these parents being birth parents.

As far as who reports suspected child maltreatment, 57 percent of reports were by professionals of some category with education officials and law enforcement officials each representing more than 16 percent of reporters and social service workers (11 percent) and medical professionals (eight percent) following. Overall 19 percent of reporters were nonprofessionals and included other relatives (seven percent), parents (six percent) and friends/neighbors (five percent). Twenty-two percent of reporters were unclassified which included anonymous, uncategorized or unknown.

Of the child victims who received post-investigation services, 146,000 were placed in foster care for at least some period and 232,000 received in-home services. The remaining did not receive services and while the numbers are based on some estimates and duplicate counts of children, generally 40 percent of child victims do not receive services. For non-victims, which could include children where there was a lack of evidence, an alternate or differential response service, siblings of a victim, or unknown status, 101,000 were in foster care for some amount of time and an additional 709,000 received in-home services.

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