On January 14, 2021, the Children’s Bureau released the annual child abuse and neglect report: Child Maltreatment 2019. The numbers show a decrease in the rates of abuse and neglect for last year’s report, but infants and young children have the highest child maltreatment rates in their first year of life. For the federal fiscal year 2019, there are an estimated 656,000 victims of child abuse and neglect. The victim rate is 8.9 victims per 1,000 children in the population.

Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies received a national estimate of 4.4 million referrals involving approximately 7.9 million children. Of the number of referrals, 54.5 percent were screened in, and 45.5 percent were screened out for 2019. Fifty-two states screened in 2.4 million referrals for a CPS response, an increase of 5.8 percent. As far as who reports cases of abuse and neglect, professionals submitted 68.6 percent of reports. Professionals included teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff. As in past years, education personnel (21%) accounted for the single biggest percentage of reporters, followed by legal and law enforcement personnel (19.1%) and social services personnel (11%). These are all mandatory reporters under various state laws. Nonprofessionals—including friends, neighbors, and relatives— and unclassified sources both submitted fewer than one-fifth of reports each (15.7%).

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Children in their first year of life have the highest rate of victimization at 25.7 per 1,000 (an increase from FY 2018) children of the same age in the national population.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization at 14.8 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity, and African American children have the second-highest rate at 13.7 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity.
  • An increase from 12.3 percent in 2018 to 15.9 percent in 2019 shows an increase in the number of victims reported with the alcohol abuse caregiver risk factor.
  • A decrease in the number of victims with the drug abuse caregiver risk factor from 30.7 in 2018 to 29.4 percent in 2019

The report provided two analyses for the type of abuse and neglect that children suffered, counting categories, where a victim is counted once for each substantiated maltreatment type and counting single types, where the focus is on those victims who suffered a single type of maltreatment. For victims with two or more substantiated maltreatment, they are counted in the multiple maltreatment types.

Maltreatment Type Counting Categories Counting Single Types
Single Maltreatment n/a 84.5%
Neglect 74.9% 61%
Physical Abuse 17.5% 10.3%
Sexual Abuse 9.3% 7.2%

For the fiscal year 2019, an estimated 1,840 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.50 per 100,000 children in the national population, an increase of 10.8 percent from the 2015 national estimate of 1,660 child fatalities. Forty-five (45.4%) percent of all child fatalities were children under the age of 1. In addition, the report showed the following:

  • Boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls at 2.98 boys per 100,000 boys in the population.
  • Girls had a child fatality rate of 2.20 per 100,000 girls in the population.
  • The rate for African-American child fatalities was 5.06 per 100,000 African American children, 2.3 times greater than the rate of White children, and 2.7 times greater than the rate of Hispanic children.
  • The rate for white children was 2.18 per 100,000 children.
  • The rate of Hispanic children was 1.89 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) or other federal funds such as the Social Services Block grant. An estimated 1.9 million children received prevention services in the fiscal year 2019. States report postresponse services as services that were initiated or continued due to an investigation response or alternative response from a child welfare agency. Two-thirds (60.8%) of victims and one third (27.7%) of nonvictims received post-response services. Nearly 1.3 million children received post-response services from a CPS agency.

This is the second year states reported on data elements from CAPTA, infants with prenatal substance exposure (IPSE), and victims of sex trafficking.  Twenty-nine states reported 877 victims of sex trafficking, with most of the victims (85.5%) being female. Seventy-six percent of victims were ages 14 through 17. The second category of data includes forty-seven states with 38,625 infants with prenatal substance exposure in FY 2019. Of that number twenty- one states reported 23,210 screened-in infants IPSE, and 75 percent (17,505) had a Plan of Safe Care. The data collection under CAPTA is voluntary since federal funding for the system is so very limited. Last year thirteen states reported data, and the number is steadily increasing, a huge improvement when typically data collection tends to be slower.