Child abuse, neglect data released

Lowest number of maltreatment victims in five years

January 14, 2021

New federal child abuse and neglect data shows 2019 had the lowest number of victims who suffered maltreatment in five years.

The Children’s Bureau at HHS' Administration for Children and Families published the 30th edition of the Child Maltreatment Report, which analyzes data collected by state child protective services (CPS) agencies. The report presents fiscal year 2019 data, which is the latest data available.

“Supporting state child welfare agencies prevent and address child maltreatment has been a top priority in the Trump Administration,” said Lynn Johnson, HHS assistant secretary for children and families. “These new numbers show we are making significant strides in reducing victimization due to maltreatment.  It is my hope HHS’ Administration for Children and Families continues our work with state and tribal partners to further reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect.”

Of the 3,476,000 million (rounded) children who were the subject of an investigation or alternative response in fiscal year 2019, 656,000 (rounded) children were determined to be victims of maltreatment, down from 677,000 (rounded) victims in 2018.  Most victims, 84.5 percent, suffered from a single type of maltreatment and 15.5 percent suffered from two or more types of maltreatment. The most common single maltreatment type was neglect with 61.0 percent, followed by physical abuse with 10.3 percent.

“This report illustrates that the majority of victims experienced neglect and not abuse,” said Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of HHS’ Children’s Bureau. “Neglect is also the primary reason for family separations in the child-welfare system, and is more common among families living in poverty. This underscores the importance of community efforts in preventing child maltreatment by ensuring every family is safe, secure and has the support needed to raise their children in a healthy environment.”

The number of child fatalities due to child abuse and neglect increased by 60 in fiscal year 2019. The number and rate of fatalities have fluctuated during the past five years. A national estimate of 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2019 compared to an estimated 1,780 children who died in fiscal year 2018.

Each state bases its own definitions of child abuse and neglect on standards set by federal law. Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse. Additional types of maltreatment measured in the report include medical neglect and sex trafficking. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment occur separately, they can also occur in combination. The maltreatment type of sex trafficking was introduced in the fiscal year 2018 data cycle. For 2019, there were 877 victims of sex trafficking in the 29 states that were able to report this relatively new field.

Forty-seven states reported that 38,625 infants with prenatal substance exposure were referred to child welfare agencies for fiscal year 2019.  This is an increase from the 27,709 infants with prenatal substance exposure that were reported in 45 states during 2018.  Readers are encouraged to read the Special Focus chapter and states’ comments in Appendix D, State Commentary for more information about state reporting of sex trafficking as a maltreatment type and infants with prenatal substance exposure.

When states submit their data, they have the opportunity to submit commentary that may provide context to the data published in the report. Commentaries are  included with the report in Appendix D. States’ commentaries suggest that better reporting, resolved investigation or assessment backlogs, and changes to state legislation and child welfare policies and practices, may have contributed to the changes noted in the 2019 metrics.

The child maltreatment report is from NCANDS, a voluntary national data collection and analysis program of state child abuse and neglect information based upon data received from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Child Maltreatment 2019 report and previous reports can be found at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/child-maltreatment-2019

 

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Quick Facts

  • Of the 3,476,000 million (rounded) children who were the subject of an investigation or alternative response in fiscal year 2019, 656,000 (rounded) children were determined to be victims of maltreatment, down from 677,000 (rounded) victims in 2018. 
  • Most victims, 84.5 percent, suffered from a single type of maltreatment and 15.5 percent suffered from two or more types of maltreatment.
  • The most common single maltreatment type was neglect with 61.0 percent, followed by physical abuse with 10.3 percent.
  • The number of child fatalities due to child abuse and neglect increased by 60 in fiscal year 2019.
  • A national estimate of 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2019 compared to an estimated 1,780 children who died in fiscal year 2018.

Quotes

“Supporting state child welfare agencies prevent and address child maltreatment has been a top priority in the Trump Administration.”
— Lynn Johnson, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“These new numbers show we are making significant strides in reducing victimization due to maltreatment. It is my hope HHS’ Administration for Children and Families continues our work with state and tribal partners to further reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect.”
— Lynn Johnson, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“This report illustrates that the majority of victims experienced neglect and not abuse.”
— Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of HHS’ Children’s Bureau
“Neglect is also the primary reason for family separations in the child-welfare system, and is more common among families living in poverty. This underscores the importance of community efforts in preventing child maltreatment by ensuring every family is safe, secure and has the support needed to raise their children in a healthy environment.”
— Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of HHS’ Children’s Bureau

Contact

Administration for Children & Families
Office of Communications
330 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Phone: (202) 401-9215
Fax: (202) 205-9688
Email: media@acf.hhs.gov

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