On January 15, 2020, the Children’s Bureau released the annual child abuse and neglect report: Child Maltreatment 2018. The numbers show an increase in the rates of abuse and neglect for the first time since 2015, with infants and young children having the highest increase in child maltreatment. For the federal fiscal year 2018, there are an estimated 678,000 victims of child abuse and neglect. The victim rate is 9.2 victims per 1,000 children in the population.

Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies received a national estimate of 4.3 million referrals involving approximately 7.8 million children. Fifty-six percent of referrals were screened in, and 44 percent were screened out in the fiscal year 2018. Fifty-two states screened in 2.4 million referrals for a CPS response. As far as who reports cases of abuse and neglect, professionals submitted 67.3 percent of reports. Professionals included teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff. As in past years, education personnel (20.5%) accounted for the single biggest percentage of reporters followed by legal and law enforcement personnel (18.7%), and social services personnel (10.7%). These are all mandatory reporters under various state laws.

Nonprofessionals—including friends, neighbors, and relatives—submitted fewer than one-fifth
of reports (16.6%).

• Children in their first year of life have the highest rate of victimization at 26.7 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.
• American Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization at 15.2 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity, and African American children have the second-highest rate at 14.0 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity.
• An increase from 11.6 percent in 2016 to 12.3 percent in 2018 shows an increase in the number of victims reported with the alcohol abuse caregiver risk factor.
• An increase in the number of victims with the drug abuse caregiver risk factor increased from 28.9 in 2016 to 30.7 percent in 2018

For the fiscal year 2018, the greatest percentage of children suffered from neglect (60.8%), 10.7 percent of victims were suffered from physical abuse, and 7.0 percent were sexually abused. These victims could suffer a single maltreatment type or a combination of two or more maltreatment types. A victim who suffers more than one type of maltreatment is counted only once per type. Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, Jerry Milner, emphasized that “the report again demonstrates that most children enter the foster care system, not from physical abuse, but neglect.” He asserted that poverty and other root causes of neglect must be addressed to strengthening families’ capacity to care and provide for their children and to prevent child abuse and neglect from happening.

For the fiscal year 2018, an estimated 1,770 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.39 per 100,000 children in the national population, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year’s national estimate of 1,710 child fatalities. Seventy-one (70.6%) percent of all child fatalities were younger than three years old, with nearly one-half of child fatalities being children under the age of 1.

• Boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls at 2.87 boys per 100,000 boys in the population.
• Girls had a child fatality rate of 2.19 per 100,000 girls in the population.
• The rate for African-American child fatalities was 5.48 per 100,000 African American children, 2.8 times greater than the rate of White children, and 3.4 times greater than the rate of Hispanic children.
• The rate for white children was 1.94 per 100,000 children.
• The rate of Hispanic children was 1.63 per 100,000 children.

Regarding prevention services both for children that were substantiated as victims of maltreatment and children that were not victims but came to the attention of child protective services, and are funded by the state or through CAPTA (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act). An estimated 2 million children received prevention services in the fiscal year 2018. Postresponse services are reported by the state as services that were initiated or continued due to an investigation response or alternative response from a child welfare agency.

• Two-thirds (60.7%) of victims and one third (29.0%) of nonvictims received post-response services.
• Approximately 2.0 million children received prevention services.
• Nearly 1.3 million children received post-response services from a CPS agency.

For the first time the maltreatment report includes a special focus chapter. This year the data includes some initial data states have gathered on plans of safe care. Thirteen states have begun to report data. Of the thirteen states 9,674 plans of safe care where provided to the 15,081 Screened-in Infants with Prenatal Substance Exposure (IPSE). That means that 64 percent infants screened in had plans of safe care. The data collection under CAPTA is voluntary since federal funding for the system is so very limited. Generally when new data requirements are added by the Congress it will take several years before significant data is collected.

A second category of new data directed by Congress is for victims of sex trafficking. Twenty-six states reported 741 victims with 89 percent of that total being female victims. Seventy percent of victims were ages 14 through 17. Congress gave states the option to collect data up to age 24 but it seems unlikely state child protective services systems will be able to add this age group into their, sometimes very challenged, child protection systems.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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