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Fewer child abuse and neglect victims for sixth consecutive year

The number of children suffering abuse and maltreatment has dropped nationwide for the sixth consecutive year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

The report estimates there were 686,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the country in 2012. While this indicates a steady decrease since 2007, when there were approximately 723,000 reports of abuse, it also serves as a reminder that there is more work still to be done. Several states cited improvements to their child abuse reporting system, such as implementing or expanding alternative response programs and introducing a centralized intake system.

While the number of abuse victims has decreased, the number of fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect appears to have increased from 1,580 in 2011 to 1,640 in 2012.  Researchers are still working to determine whether this is a real increase in child fatalities or if improvements to how states investigate and report child fatalities have improved our ability to determine which deaths are attributable to abuse and neglect.

“The overall reduction in abuse and neglect is encouraging, but there are still significant areas for improvement,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Mark Greenberg.  “The growth in reported child fatalities could be attributable to improved reporting, but it is important to determine why such fatalities occur so we can continue to strengthen our efforts to protect children from all forms of harm.”

The report also describes the characteristics of families experiencing maltreatment.  According to the report:

• 80.3 percent of the abusers were the victim’s parent.
• 6.1 percent were family members other than parents.
• 4.2 percent were unmarried partners of the victim’s parent.
• 3.1 percent of the abusers had an “unknown” relationship with the victim.
• 4.6 percent had an “other” relationship with the victim, including siblings, victim’s boyfriend/girlfriend, stranger and babysitter.
• Remaining categories, including foster parents, legal guardians, friends and neighbors each represented less than 0.5 percent.

To view the full report, please visit

Additional information on how to prevent child abuse is available at the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at

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