Each year, the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF’s) Children’s Bureau releases a report with the latest data available on an analysis of child abuse and neglect information collected from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories. Known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), this data and analysis program was established by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1988. The first NCANDS report was based on data for 1990 and since then NCANDS has been reported annually, with the Children’s Bureau collecting and analyzing the data in its “Child Maltreatment” report submitted to Congress each year. The 2015 Child Maltreatment Report
was released at the end of January 2017 and reflects data reported for Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2015.
Though each state has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect, consistent in nearly all reporting systems throughout the states is a recognition of four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse.
There are important benefits to examining the NCANDS data at the federal level. Such analysis serves as a lens into the national trends of child maltreatment each year; at the same time, NCANDS provides case-level data about the screened in referrals of abuse and neglect made to each state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. The system also provides information on the types of maltreatment the children suffered, the dispositions of the CPS responses, the risk factors of the child and the caregivers, the services provided, and the perpetrators. Some child abuse referrals receive alternative responses, which focus primarily upon the needs of the family and do not result in a determination of abuse and neglect.
Increasing referrals to CPS agencies
During FFY 2015, CPS agencies received an estimated 4 million referrals involving approximately 7.2 million children – that’s a 10 percent increase in referrals compared to the FFY 2014 data.
Majority of referrals continue to be made by mandated reporters
More than 63.4 percent of reports alleging child abuse and neglect during FFY 2015 were reported by professionals determined to be mandated reporters (e.g., teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff). Friends, neighbors and relatives reported almost 20 percent of the referrals. Very little change from FFY 2014 was noted.
Decreasing number of victims of child abuse and neglect nationally reported
The victim rate was 9.2 victims per 1,000 children in the population. Children in their first year had the highest rate of victimization at 24.2 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population, compared to 24.4 per 1,000 in 2014.
Increasing national rate of child fatalities
The tragedy of child deaths grew to more than 1,670 children nationally from abuse and neglect—an increase of 7.5 percent from FFY 2014—and the national rate of child fatalities was 2.25 deaths per 100,000 children. An additionally staggering data set is that nearly 75 percent of all child fatalities were younger than three years old. The data reflects that the fatality rate for boys is as high as 2.42 boys per 100,000 in the population (compared to 2.09 girls per 100,000).
Looking at the entire picture
These are just a few of the challenging data reflected in the 2015 report. Every state tackling these difficult statistics is faced with the additional challenges of workforce turnover, lack of adequate and appropriate services, risk of funding cuts and reductions in state budgets, which exacerbate responsiveness to child abuse and neglect allegations and referrals. Ultimately, many of these additional challenges have an impact of how states respond to child abuse and neglect. Too often states initiate new projects to address one critical issue without looking at the entire picture of the child welfare system. As a result, states often discover that the resources to fully and successfully implement the new project are lacking, which may lead to more failure and frustration on the system.
The 2015 Child Maltreatment report reinforces the need for a more thorough and integrated approach to addressing these challenges – reducing or eliminating child abuse and neglect is an issue of critical importance. This is a multi-faceted societal problem that requires multiple responses internally and externally within every state.
The complete 2015 Child Maltreatment Report is available here