Every 47 seconds in the United States, a child is confirmed to have been abused or neglected; 80% of those children are victims of neglect. Infants and toddlers are most likely to be victims of abuse or neglect. Nearly 40% of those victims will receive no post-investigative services or support. (Children’s Legal Defense Fund’s 2014 The State of America’s Children). Keep in mind these are conservative estimates; there is no uniform definition for abuse or neglect among the states in the US, so many who study this field believe the statistics are actually much higher.
Child abuse and neglect in the US costs us 80 BILLION dollars EACH YEAR. Those costs range from physical and mental health care to salaries for child welfare worker and law enforcement officer involvement. It also includes the cost of preventative services and lost work productivity.
Every 5.5 hours, a child in the US dies from abuse or neglect. Over 80% of those children will be under 4 years of age, and half of them will be infants. Children with special needs also are at a higher risk of death due to abuse or neglect. Sadly, nearly half of the children who died of abuse or neglect had no prior involvement with Child Protective Services.
What puts children at risk of abuse or neglect? Here are some indicators to watch out for in their caregivers:
- Younger children, especially under the age of four
- Special needs that may increase caregiver burden
- Parent’s young age, low education and income, single parenting
- Low income, single-parent families experiencing major stresses
- Non-biologic caregivers in the home
- Children with emotional and health problems
- Intimate partner violence
- Lack of suitable childcare
- Substance abuse and/or or mental health issues among caregivers
- Parent history as child maltreatment victim
- Parents and caregivers who do not understand children’s needs and development or how to parent
If YOU believe a child is at risk of abuse or neglect, you may be hesitant to report it. You may not want to rat out a friend or a relative, or you may fear retaliation. In some states you may be required to report by law. In other states, you may be a mandated reporter if you hold certain jobs, such as law enforcement officer or teacher. Whatever your status, just report it. Better to know your worries were for naught than to find out too late you could have helped a child.
There are also other things you can do.
- Advocate for free or reduced cost daycare where you live. In addition to helping struggling parents, it puts younger children who are at greater risk in the care of mandated reporters, who can alert child welfare authorities if they suspect abuse or neglect.
- Support funding for community services that help those who are poor, are victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, and struggle with substance abuse. We know these are three of the greatest indicators of child maltreatment, and when you put them together, it’s dangerous.
- Support and volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or assistance program, and advocate for male victims of domestic violence as well as the female. There are over 3800 animal shelters in the United States, but only 1200 shelters for battered women and children. And there are pitifully few shelters that will accept men.
- Volunteer in your community with programs that help children and teens. Big Brothers/ Big Sisters is always in need of volunteers, especially men, to partner with children who need a positive role model to spend time with and look up to.
1825 is the number of confirmed cases of child abuse in the US EVERY DAY. It’s time we did something to lower that statistic.