The latest data from HHS through the annual Child Maltreatment report indicates that the number of children substantiated as abused or neglected increased to 702,000 in 2014 compared to 682,307 in 2013.

Consistent with the past several years the vast majority of children were victims of neglect (75 percent) compared to physical abuse (17 percent) or sexual abuse (8.3 percent) as well as several other categories such as psychological abuse and medical neglect.  The totals represent more than 100 percent since many children are victims of several categories of maltreatment.

The report also indicates that there were 1,546 child abuse and neglect fatalities with an estimated total of 1580 (the report will estimate for all 50 states when some state data is missing).  The estimated figure of 1580 is an increase from last year’s (2013) total of 1530.

There were 3.6 million reports of child abuse.  These reports covered 6.6 million children (a report could include an entire family or siblings).  Of note 60.7 percent of children reported to child protective services (CPS) were screened in for further investigation, a figure consistent with recent years. States determine the specifics of child abuse standards and how and when children should be screened out of further investigation.  Some of those cases that may be screened out may include instances of false reports or accusations, cases that could result from child custody disputes, historically old reports of abuse, reports that may simply involve instances of poverty. Eventually a total of 2.2 million reports (of the 3.6 million) that were screened-in resulted in 3.2 million children getting a further investigation.  From this total 702,000 were substantiated as victims of child maltreatment.

Again these number can be effected by state policy particularly in those states that use a “differential response” (DR) or duel track system.  A DR approach sets up two tracks for further investigation.  The ‘traditional” track that is reserved for the most serious cases of child endangerment.  It is more investigative and may result in child removal.  The second track will likely involve greater case work that may involve work with families to address issues, especially around neglect.  Data here can also vary.  Under some best practice models for DR, families in the alternative track are never “substantiated” as victims.  Some state however, do list “victims” as recipients of services under DR.

Post investigation resulted in services to 1.3 million children with one-third of “non-victims” receiving services (i.e. siblings or unsubstantiated child victims).

Of the children substantiated as victims, 63.7 percent received follow up services. That means some children even though substantiated as victims do not receive services.  Reasons for that may vary based on how states report this data.  In some instances, however services may not be available or there are waiting lists.  In other instances, families may refuse.  Some states may also have different ways in how they describe services.  Some state data will indicate all children received services while others will indicate no families received services.  A child placed into foster care is also classified as having received services.  Of the 410,000 child abuse victims that received services 147,000 were placed into foster care.  Another 94,000 “non-victims” were placed into foster care (likely siblings).

In terms of who is reporting instances of suspected child abuse, professionals made three-fifths (62.7%).  Within this category three largest percentages of sources were from the legal and law enforcement personnel (18.1%), education personnel (17.7%) and social services personnel (11.0%).  Nonprofessionals—including friends, neighbors, and relatives—submitted one fifth of reports (18.6%).

All states have mandatory reporting laws with some states requiring all people to be mandatory reports of child abuse.  Recent analysis by HHS shows that such laws have not had an impact on reports.  All states include some common categories such as doctors, teachers and other health and education professionals.  There is limited training for such reporters and some advocates feel that any training needs to recognize ways to assist families that may involve neglect or instances of family violence.

The new report which covers 2014 relies on state data submitted through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS).  When some state data is missing (the reporting is voluntary) the annual report will project out for missing data.

Within weeks we expect to hear from the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities on their recommendations on how to address this challenge including how to collect the most accurate data in this category of child abuse.