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Home > Advocacy > National Fact Sheet 2003 > National Fact Sheet 2001


National Fact Sheet 2001

Creating Connected Communities: Policy, Action, Commitment

Children Need Protection and Care

Child Abuse and Neglect Facts at-a-Glance a

  (Rate per 1,000 Children in U.S.)
Referrals of possible child abuse and neglect, 1998(est.) 2,806,00040.2 b
Child abuse and neglect cases screened in for investigation, 19981,851,26726.3 c
Children substantiated/indicated as abused or neglected, 1998903,39512.9
    --Neglect 53.5%7.2
    --Physical abuse22.7%2.9
    --Sexual abuse11.5%1.6
Children who died as a result of abuse or neglect, 1998(est.) 1,1001.6 d
Children in foster care in September 1999(est.) 568,0008.1
Number of children in foster care waiting to be adopted in September 1999(est.) 118,0001.7
Number of children adopted through public foster care system, FY 1999(est.) 46,00081.0 e
a - Sources for these statistics are cited throughout this document.
b - reports per 1,000
c - cases per 1,000
d - per 100,000
e - per 1,000 children in care
  • In 1998, of the estimated 2.8 million referrals for child abuse and neglect, 66% percent (1,851,267) were screened in for investigation or assessment. The referrals involved 2,898,849 children.1

  • Just under one million (903,395) children were victims of abuse or neglect in 1998. More than one-half of the children suffered neglect (53.5%), 22.7% were physically abused, and 11.5% were sexually abused. Children also experienced emotional abuse, medical neglect, and other forms of maltreatment.2

  • Every day, three children die from abuse and neglect (an estimated 1,100 children in 1998); of these, 77% died before reaching their fifth birthday.3

  • An estimated 30% to 60% of men who assault their female partners also abuse their children.4

  • As of September 1999, 568,000 children lived in out-of-home care-family foster care, kinship care, or residential care. The average age of these children was 10 years, and the average time the children had been in foster care was 34 months. In the period ending March 1999, 59% of the children exiting care returned to their birthfamilies, after an average stay of 23 months.5

  • Children of color are disproportionately represented in the foster care population. Of the children in foster care as of September 1999, 42% were black non-Hispanic, 36% were white non-Hispanic, and 15% were Hispanic.6

  • Children under age 6 represented 29% of the children in foster care as of September 1999. Youth age 16 and older represented 18% of children in care.7

  • Of the children in foster care in September 1999, 118,000 were waiting to be adopted. Of these, 50% were black non-Hispanic, 32% were white non-Hispanic, and 11% were Hispanic.8

  • An estimated 46,000 children were adopted from the public foster care system in FY 1999. Of those, 47% were under age 6, 36% were ages 6-10, and 17% were 11 and older. Of those adopted, 48% of the group waited more than one year from the time they became legally free for adoption until they were adopted. Foster parents adopted 64% of these children.9

  • During 1998, about $15.6 billion, or $57.75 per capita, was spent on the public child welfare system in the United States, including federal, state, and local resources.10

  • Children involved in the child welfare system are more likely than other children to be living in poverty and to be in poor health.11 Adolescents in foster care are among those most at risk to abuse alcohol or drugs, contract and transmit HIV infection, or become teen parents.12

  • In 1998, the rate of births to teen mothers in the United States was 51.1 for every 1,000 girls ages 15-19.13

  • Mental health problems affect one in five young people at any given time.14 An estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need.15

  • An estimated 10.9 million children in the United States are uninsured. Of these children, 20% (2.1 million) are potentially eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled.16

  • In the United States in 1999, Medicaid paid for 35% of births in the United States.17

  • When comparing average annual costs, child care is more expensive for a 4-year-old in an urban child care center than the average tuition at a public college in 49 states.18

  • Children comprised 27% of the homeless population in 1999, and unaccompanied youth represented 7% of the population.19 Among homeless adults in 1996, 29% reported one or more abuse or neglect experiences before reaching age 18, and 27% reported having lived in foster care, a group home, or another institutional setting for part of their childhood.20

Youth Need Positive Development

  • In 2002, the number of out-of-school programs for school-age children will meet as little as an estimated 25% of the demand in some urban areas.21

  • The violent victimization of juveniles is greatest between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.22

  • Children without adult supervision are at significantly greater risk of stress, truancy from school, poor grades, risk-taking behavior, and substance use. Children who spend more hours on their own and begin self-care at younger ages are at increased risk of poor outcomes.23

Many Families in Child Welfare Have Serious Substance Abuse Problems

  • Substance abuse, a major factor in child abuse and neglect, is associated with as many as one-half or more of the children placed in the custody of child welfare.24

  • Parental substance abuse and poverty are the top two problems in child protective caseloads in 85% of the states.25

  • Children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol are almost three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers.26

  • Among female substance abuse treatment clients who are parents, 44% reported they entered substance abuse treatment to retain or regain custody of their children.27

  • Substance abuse is a treatable public health problem with cost-effective solutions, yet 46% of parents with substance abuse problems who are also involved in the child welfare system were neither offered nor provided substance abuse services.28

Violence and Incarceration Remain Serious Issues

  • In 1998, 3,761 young people ages 0-19 were killed by firearms-more than 10 every day. Of these deaths, 2,184 were determined to be homicides, and 1,241 were suicides.29

  • In 1997, the suicide rate for children ages 10-14 was 1.6 per 100,000. For youth ages 15-19, the rate was 9.5 per 100,000.30

  • Between 1993 and 1998, juvenile homicides declined 56%, violent youth crime decreased 37%, and overall youth crime declined 14%.31

  • Law enforcement agencies in the United States made an estimated 2.5 million arrests of persons under age 18 during 1999. While juvenile violent crime arrests declined to the lowest this decade, the juvenile Violent Crime Index was 366 per 100,000 youth ages 10-17.32

  • In October 1997, 105,790 children and youth offenders were in juvenile correctional facilities. Of those, 72% were committed by the court; 26% were detained while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition, or placement; and 2% were voluntarily admitted.33

  • A study in Sacramento County, California, found that children ages 9-12 who were referred to child welfare were 67 times more likely to be arrested than other 9- to 12-year-olds. Fully one-half of all children arrested were from the 1.4% of all children who were known to child welfare.34

  • In 1999, an estimated 1,498,800 children under age 18, or 2.1% of the child population, had a parent in prison. Of these, 22% (329,736) were younger than 5 years old.35

Child Poverty Remains High

  • In 1999, children comprised 26% of the nation's population but 38% of the poor. 36

  • Nearly one in six children (16.9 %) lived below the poverty line ($17,029 for a family of four) in 1999; 7% of children lived in extreme poverty, in families with cash incomes less than 50% of the poverty line (below $8,515 a year or $710 a month). Among children under age 6 living with single mothers, 54.6% were below the poverty line. 37

  • In 1999, 33% of black children, 30% of Hispanic children, and 14% of white children lived in poverty. 38
Also available:
  • This document in PDF format. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2007.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2006.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2005.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2004.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2003.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2002.
  • The National Fact Sheet from 2000.
For more child welfare statistics and pertinent notes, visit the National Data Analysis System at


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. (2000). Child maltreatment 1998: Reports from the states to the national child abuse and neglect data system. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Edleson, J.L. (1999). The overlap between child maltreatment and woman abuse. Available online at Washington, DC: Violence Against Women Office, U.S. Department of Justice.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. (2000). The AFCARS report. Available online at Washington, DC: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Bess, R., Leos-Urbel, J., & Geen, R. (2001). The cost of protecting vulnerable children II: What has changed since 1996? Assessing the New Federalism, Occasional paper no. 46. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Calculations by CWLA.
  11. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. (February 1994). Health care of children in foster care, Pediatrics, 93(2), 1-4.
  12. Ibid.
  13. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). Fact sheet: National teen pregnancy and birth data. Available online at Washington, DC: Author.
  14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (1996). Fact sheet: Conduct disorders in children and adolescents. Washington, DC: Author.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Tang, S., Yudkowsky, B., & Siston, A. (2001). Children's health insurance status and public program participation. State reports, 1999 and 2001 estimates. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  17. Tang, S., Siston, A., & Yudkowsky, B. (2000). Medicaid state reports-FY 1998. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  18. Schulman, K. (2000). The high cost of child care puts quality care out of reach for many families. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund.
  19. U.S. Conference of Mayors. (1999). A status report on hunger and homelessness in America's cities. Washington, DC: Author.
  20. Burt, M., & Aron, L. (1999). Homelessness: Programs and the people they serve. Summary report: findings of the national survey of homeless assistance providers and clients. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
  21. U.S. General Accounting Office. (1998). Abstracts of GAO reports and testimony, FY97. Available online at abstracts/he97075.htm. Washington, DC: GAO.
  22. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (1999). Juvenile offenders and victims: A national report. Washington, DC: Author.
  23. Dwyer, K.M., Richardson, J.L., Danley, K.L., Hansen, W.B., Sussman, S.Y., Brannon, B., Dent, C.W., Johnson, C.A., & Flay, B.R. (1990). Characteristics of eighth-grade students who initiate self-care in elementary and junior high school. Pediatrics, 86, 448-454.
  24. Child Welfare League of America. (1997). Alcohol and other drug survey of state child welfare agencies. Washington, DC: Author.
  25. National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. (1999). Current trends in child abuse reporting and fatalities: NCPCA's 1998 annual fifty-state survey. Washington, DC: Author.
  26. Kelleher, K., Chaffin, M., Hollenberg, J., & Fischer, E. (1994). Alcohol and drug disorders among physically abusive and neglectful parents in a community-based sample. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 1586-1590.
  27. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA. (1999). Blending perspectives and building common ground. Washington, DC: Author.
  28. Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. (March 1998). Press release of a study sponsored by the Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Providence, RI: Author; Finigan, M. (1996). Societal outcomes and cost savings of drug and alcohol treatment in the state of Oregon. Salem, OR: Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, Oregon Department of Human Resources and Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.
  29. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics. Table III: Deaths from 282 selected causes. Unpublished tabulations, National Center for Health Statistics, Washington, DC. Calculations by Children's Defense Fund.
  30. National Institute of Mental Health. (1999). Suicide facts. Available online at Bethesda, MD: Author.
  31. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1999, 1994). Crime in the United States: 1998, 1993. Washington, DC: Author. Calculations by Justice Policy Institute.
  32. Snyder, H. (December 2000). Juvenile arrests 1999. OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  33. Sickmund, M., & Wan, Yi-chun. (1999). Census of juveniles in residential placement: 1997 databook. Available online at cjrp97/openpage.asp. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  34. Child Welfare League of America. (1997). Sacramento County community intervention program: Findings from a comprehensive study by community partners in child welfare, law enforcement, juvenile justice, and the Child Welfare League of America. Washington, DC: Author.
  35. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2000). Special report: Incarcerated parents and their children. Washington, DC: Author.
  36. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2000). Poverty in the United States: March supplement to the current population report. Washington, DC: Author.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.

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