National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, No. 18: Instability and Early Life Changes Among Children in the Child Welfare System

Publication Date: September 15, 2012
Report Type


The youngest children are the most vulnerable to child maltreatment. They are also the most vulnerable to the effects of caregiver and placement instability given their need for consistent and sensitive caregiving to thrive, survive, and have a healthy development. More than one third (34.0%) of all 2010 victims and 79.4% of the children who died as a result of child abuse and neglect were younger than 4 years old. To protect vulnerable children from further harm, some children are placed in out-of-home care. Among children entering foster care in 2010, 48% were aged birth to 5 years old, with 16% younger than 1 year old.  Infants who entered out-of-home care spent 50% more time in out-of-home care than older children—the youngest infants (0 to 2 months old) spent 33% more time in care than infants who entered care from ages 3 to 12 months old. The reasons for placement included the most severe neglect and physical maltreatment, abandonment, and a high risk for maltreatment to reoccur.

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