Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect: Identification and Reporting
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The Disturbing Statistics

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Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect Have Many PresentationsI

Legal Definitions Related to Child Maltreatment

Recognizing Child Abuse

Case Studies: Identifying Abuse

Risk Factors Contributing to Child Abuse and Maltreatment

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The Consequences of Child Abuse

Perpetrators of Child Abuse

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Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment

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How to Report

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The Abandoned Infant Protection Act




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Ken Hammond, USDA

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. The data are submitted voluntarily by the States, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. State laws determine what is considered abuse, maltreatment or neglect in each state and these laws can vary from state to state. The information that is collected in each state also varies.

The reader is requested to remember that the data presented here are provided voluntarily by each state and compiled by NCANDS. The first report from NCANDS was based on data for 1990; the most recent report, Child Maltreatment 2008, published in 2010, reports on data collected from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008. Most of the statistics in this course come from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families' Child Maltreatment 2008 (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

The National Picture

For Federal fiscal year 2008, an estimated 3.3 million reports alleging child abuse or neglect were made to State and local child protective services (CPS) agencies for investigation or assessment. CPS estimated that 772,000 (10.3 per 1,000) children were victims of maltreatment; approximately three quarters of them had no history of prior victimization (CDC, 2010). Note: A child is counted each time she or he is a subject of a report, which means a child may be counted more than once as a victim of child maltreatment.

During 2008, 71.1% of victims experienced neglect, 16.1% were physically abused, 9.1% were sexually abused, and 7.3% were victims of psychological abuse; 2.2% experienced medical neglect (CDC, 2010; USDHHS-ACF, 2010). In addition, 9.0 percent of victims experienced such "other" types of maltreatment as "abandonment," "threats of harm to the child," or "congenital drug addiction." States may code any condition that does not fall into one of the main categories-physical abuse, neglect, medical neglect, sexual abuse, and psychological or emotional maltreatment as "other." These maltreatment type percentages total more than 100 percent because children who were victims of more than one type of maltreatment were counted for each maltreatment (USDHHS-ACYF, 2010).

Estimates of child maltreatment vary. According to Finkelhor, et al. (2009), it is estimated that in 2008, 1 in 5 U.S. children experienced some form of child maltreatment: approximately 1 percent were victims of sexual assault; 4 percent were victims of child neglect; 9 percent were victims of physical abuse; and 12 percent were victims of emotional abuse.

The rate of all children who received a disposition increased from 43.8 per 1,000 children in 2002 to 49.4 per 1,000 children in 2008. The national estimates are based upon counting a child each time he or she was the subject of a CPS investigation. While almost a million children were determined to be victims of child maltreatment, the rate of victimization has decreased slightly since 1990. The rate of victimization per 1,000 children in the national population has dropped from 13.4 children in 1990 to 12.3 per 1,000 children in 2002 to 10.3 per 1,000 children in 2008 (USDHHS-ACF, 2010; USDHHS-ACF, 2008).

Child fatalities are the most tragic consequence of maltreatment. In 2008, an estimated 1,740 children ages 0 to 17 died from abuse and neglect (rate of 2.3 per 100,000 children) (CDC, 2010). Nearly 40 percent (39.7%) of fatalities suffered from multiple forms of maltreatments. Another 30 percent (31.9%) suffered from neglect only; 22.9% of fatalities were a result of physical abuse; medical neglect resulted in 1.5% of fatalities.

News reports indicate that in a downturned economy, as the US has experienced in recent years, both intimate partner violence/domestic violence and child abuse increases. If news stories reported in the past 2 years are any indication, the statistics in the next edition of Child Maltreatment: 2009 should verify this. For example in a sampling of news stories: reported on 4/10/09 that hospitals in New York State are reporting an increase in shaken baby syndrome cases. They also reported that:

"Eighty-eight percent of law enforcement officials surveyed nationwide believe the economic crisis has led, or will lead, to more child abuse and neglect, according to top police officials from Los Angeles, Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia who recently held a news conference in Washington."

Characteristics of Child Victims

Generally, the rate of victimization was inversely related to the age group of the child; the youngest children had the highest rate of victimization. Children younger than 4 years are the most vulnerable for many reasons, including their dependency, small size, and inability to defend themselves (USDHHS-ACF, 2005). The rate of child victimization for the age group of birth to 1 year was 21.8 per 1,000 male children of the same age group. The child victimization rate for girls in the age group of birth to 1 year was 21.3 per 1,000 female children of the same age group. The victimization rate for children in the age group of 4-7 years was 10.9 per 1,000 for both boys and girls. Overall, the victimization rates decreased for older age groups (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

Of all the child victims in 2008, the percentage of children who were under one year of age was 12.3%; 7.2% were 1 year of age; 6.8% were 2 years of age; 6.3% were 3 years of age. Children 3 and younger accounted for 32.6% of all children victimized; 23.6% were age 4-7 years; 18.9% were 8-11 years; 18.1% were 12-15 years of age; 6.3% were 16-17 years of age (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

In 2008, as in previous years, girls were more likely than boys to be maltreated; 48.3 percent of child victims were boys, and 51.3 percent of the victims were girls. The sex of 0.4 percent of child victims was unknown (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

African-American children, American Indian or Alaska Native children, and children of multiple races had the highest rates of victimization at 16.6, 13.9, and 13.8 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity, respectively. Hispanic children and White children had rates of 9.8 and 8.6 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity, respectively. Asian children had the lowest rate of 2.4 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity. Nearly one-half of all victims were White (45.1%), one-fifth (21.9%) were African-American, and one-fifth (20.8%) were Hispanic (USDDHS-ACF, 2010).

Child victims who were reported with a disability accounted for 15% of all victims. Children with the following risk factors were considered as having a disability: mental retardation, emotional disturbance, visual or hearing impairment, learning disability, physical disability, behavioral problems, or another medical problem. In general, children with such conditions are undercounted as not every child receives a clinical diagnostic assessment by CPS agency staff. Approximately 5 percent (5.3%) of victims had behavior problems; 3.7 percent of victims were emotionally disturbed; another 6.2 percent had some other medical condition. A victim could have been reported with more than one type of disability (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

More than three-quarters (78.0%) of children who were killed were younger than 4 years of age, 10 percent were 4-7 years of age, 4 percent were 8-11 years of age, and 6 percent were 12-17 years of age (USDHHS-ACF, 2010). Almost 40% of deaths were non-Hispanic White children; 30% of deaths were African-American children (CDC, 2010).

Reporters of Child Maltreatment

Professionals submitted more than one-half (57.9%) of the reports. "Professional" indicates that the person encountered the alleged victim as part of the report source's occupation. State laws require most professionals to notify CPS agencies of suspected maltreatment. Sources of reports in 2008 were from the following professionals (USDHHS-ACF, 2010):

  • Educational personnel (16.9%);
  • Legal and law enforcement personnel (16.3%);
  • Social services personnel (10.6%);
  • Medical personnel (8.3%);
  • Mental health personnel (4.3%);
  • Child day-care providers (0.9%);
  • Foster care providers (0.6%).

Nonprofessional report sources submitted approximately 28 percent of reports. These included parents, other relatives, friends and neighbors, alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, and anonymous callers. Anonymous, other relatives, and parents accounted for the largest groups of nonprofessional reporters. Unknown or other report sources submitted about 14 percent of reports (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

In New York State

The same NCANDS data that provided information for Child Maltreatment 2008 also provided state-specific information related to certain categories of information. Much of the following information has been obtained for New York State from the same document.

In 2008, 84,089 children were maltreated New York State (USDHHS-ACF, 2010). Of these children (Note: Totals are more than 100 percent because a child may be the victim of more than one type of maltreatment.):

  • 115,098 (136.9%) maltreatments substantiated;
  • 77,172 (91.8%) were neglected;
  • 8,500 (10.1%) were physically abused;
  • 2,733 (3.3%) were sexually abused;
  • 703 (0.6%) were psychologically or emotionally maltreated;
  • 4,256 (5.1%) were medically neglected; and
  • 21,734 (25.8%) other types of maltreatment.

"Other types of maltreatment" include, for example, abandonment, threats of harm, or congenital drug addiction.

In New York State in 2008, 107 children died as a result of maltreatment, a fatality rate of 2.43 per 100,000 children. This is an increase from the fatality rate of 2.16 in 2007 (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

Of the children who were maltreated in New York State in 2008, 33.8% were White; 28.9% were African-American; 23.7% were Hispanic; 2.5% were of multiple races; 1.4% were Asian; and 0.3% were American Indian or Alaskan Native (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

In New York State, there were a total of 159,556 reports of child abuse and maltreatment to the State Central Register (SCR). Of those reports, 59.6% were made by professionals. Among the following professional groups are the number of reports and percentage of the total of reports by professional groups is as follows (USDHHS-ACF, 2010):

  • Educational personnel 32,466 (20.3%);
  • Law enforcement/legal 17,637 (11.1%);
  • Social services personnel 32,688 (20.5%);
  • Medical personnel 9,703 (6.1%);
  • Child care providers 404 (0.3%);
  • Foster care providers 2,104 (1.3%).

The rate of investigations of reports of child abuse or maltreatment has risen in New York State from 2004 to 2008. In 2004, the rate was 32.3%; in 2008 it was 36.6% (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

Of the 159,556 reports of child abuse and maltreatment in New York State in 2008, 108,567 were determined to have been unsubstantiated; 50,989 were determined to have been substantiated (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).

Ken Hammond, USDA

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