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Fewer Child Abuse and Neglect Incidents for Fifth Straight Year

Published: December 12, 2012
December 12, 2012
Picture of child hiding behind door with text: Child Abuse and Neglect in Decline

Picture of child hiding behind door with text: Child Abuse and Neglect in DeclineThe number of reported child abuse and neglect incidents has dropped nationwide for the fifth 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 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the country in 2011. 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 much work still to be done.

“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary of ACF.  “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.  We must continue coordination efforts among federal, state and local agencies to focus on child maltreatment prevention.”

While child abuse and neglect in general have dropped steadily over the past five years, the estimated number of child fatalities due to maltreatment has fluctuated.  After peaking at 1,740 child fatalities in 2009, fatalities are now at a five-year low of 1,570. 

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

  • 53.6 percent of the abusers were women.
  • 48.4 percent were Caucasian, 20.2 percent were African-American, and 19.2 percent were Hispanic.
  • 80.8 percent of the abusers were the victim’s parent.
  • Of the children who were reported as maltreatment victims, 11.2 percent were physically or mentally disabled.
  • Some of the victims were exposed to domestic violence (25.1 percent), drug abuse (18.6 percent), or alcohol abuse (9.8 percent) in their homes.  Some states did not track risk factors.

“This report tells us that the families who experience child abuse and neglect face multiple challenges,” said Bryan Samuels, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.  “So we are targeting some investments to approaches that understand and respond to that complexity.”

This year ACF awarded grants for several projects to prevent or treat maltreatment in these families.  Notably, ACF joined with private partners contributing over $35 million to support initiatives that provide housing and services to families to reduce incidents of child abuse or neglect, reduce the number of foster care placements, and increase housing and employment stability. 

To read the full report, “Child Maltreatment 2011”, please visit

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

Archived: November 14, 2017

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