The latest federal report on child abuse shows a decline for the third straight year.

From my perspective the decline reflects a change in policy and refusal of child protection agencies to accept cases (MN now rejects 2/3 of all reports of child abuse).

The equation works like this; if fewer cases are investigated, that must mean there are fewer cases of child abuse, which leads to less funding and fewer resources for terrified and traumatized children.

This report flies in the face of what we read in the newspaper and data that relates to abused and neglected children.

More children died last year at the hands of their parents and teen suicides had the highest rate increase in 15 years.

This is the same logic that has hidden child sex abuse from the public eye. When I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005, there were 895 cases of child sex abuse reported in the state of MN.

At that time I counted fifty children that I knew had been sexually abused. There were about five hundred guardians at that time. It is my experience that child sex abuse is the most underreported crime in America.

Again, the equation works like this; if a problem is not reported, it gets no attention and is not perceived by the public to be an issue that needs to be addressed.

Until our communities begin to solve the terrible problem of generational child abuse, our schools will continue to fail, our jails and prisons will remain full, and we will continue to lead the world in the number of very young women with sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 5:16 PM
NEW YORK — The rate of child maltreatment in the U.S. decreased in 2009 for the third consecutive year, according to new federal figures.

Although the decrease was slight, it ran counter to the predictions of some experts that the onset of the recession in late 2008 would trigger an upsurge of abuse.

The annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, issued Thursday, said the estimated number of victimized children dropped from 772,000 in 2008 to 763,000 last year. That’s down from 903,000 in 2006.

The rate of abuse was 10.1 per 1,000 children, down from 10.3 in 2008, to reach the lowest level since the current tracking system began in 1990.

The number of fatalities arising from abuse and neglect, however, rose slightly, from 1,740 in 2008 to 1,770 last year.

More than 80 percent of the fatalities were 3 or younger, while infants less than 1 year old had the highest overall rate of abuse and neglect. Of the perpetrators, four-fifths were the parents of the victim.

David A. Hansell, the HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families, said he was pleased by the continued decrease in maltreatment.

“However, we also know even one child abused is one too many,” he said in a statement urging more support for preventive programs and services.

David Finkelhor, a University of New Hampshire sociologist who is a leading authority on child abuse, said some people might attribute the decline in maltreatment reports to cuts in spending for investigation. But he said researchers thus far have not found evidence to support this interpretation and noted that crime also declined in 2009, contrary to expectations related to economic hard times.

“My view is that some of the improvements we have achieved that are bringing down violence and child abuse are deeply rooted and resistant to short term influences like unemployment and economic stress,” Finkelhor said.

These might include improved parenting skills, psychiatric medication and increased surveillance, he suggested.

Of the victims, 78 percent suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused, 9.5 percent were sexually abused and 7.6 percent suffered psychological maltreatment.

Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform said much of the speculation about child abuse increasing during a recession “actually is a reflection of more people becoming poor and having that poverty itself mislabeled ‘neglect.'”

The new report “suggests that, at long last, child welfare systems are getting better at distinguishing actual maltreatment from poverty itself,” Wexler said. “They’re getting a little more careful about trying to help families instead of tearing them apart.

Earlier this week, a recently formed coalition of five organizations urged the federal government to do more to reduce child-abuse fatalities.

The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths called for an increase in federal funding of $3 billion to $5 billion, an increase in home visits to troubled families, and changes in confidentiality laws that limit information jurisdictions can release about abuse cases.


Administration for Children and Families:

More reporting on Child Abuse;Child Welfare in the News

IL: Fostering strengths, not just red flags
Miller-McCune December 15, 2010
The Carole Robertson Center, which has three sites in this neighborhood, was one of those visited by the Center for the Study of Social Policy when it scoured the country for early child care centers that — knowingly or not — seemed to be doing a good job of supporting families less likely to mistreat their children.

NJ: Report: DYFS fails to meet foster kid requirements in NJ
Associated Press December 16, 2010
A new report examining New Jersey’s child welfare system says the agency is falling short in reuniting foster children with their families.

Monitoring Report:

OH: Help available for child violence victims
Cincinnati Enquirer December 15, 2010
The non-profit Center for Family Solutions officially opens Thursday in the county’s Educational Services Center building on Ohio 4 after more than five years of research and planning.

OR: Foster-care abuse victim sues DHS for $5.25 million
Statesman Journal December 17, 2010
The lawsuit, filed recently in Marion County Circuit Court, alleges that DHS “failed to conduct an adequate investigation into Alderson’s background” and “failed to monitor plaintiff’s safety and well-being while in the care of Alderson.”

PA: Court program pairs volunteer advocates with kids in crisis
The Times-Tribune December 17, 2010
Lackawanna County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program launched two years ago with 14 volunteers, according to program director Shawna Salerno. Since then, it has grown to 24 volunteers who spend countless hours gathering facts about the child’s needs and situation to present to judges.

PA: A break for children of prisoners
The Philadelphia Enquirer December 17, 2010
Philadelphia is introducing Saturday visitation as a pilot program. It could become permanent if the trial works for families and the facility.

UT: Utah County families complain of an adoption scam
ABC 4 News December 17, 2010
The families’ claim they were mislead by the LuckyHill International Foundation. Mislead, they believe, by paying money to adopt African children only to find out either that the paperwork was false or they weren’t able to adopt their children even after making the trek to Ghana.

WA: New clothing outlet caters strictly to foster kids
KXLY December 16, 2010
When children are taken from their parents because of abuse or neglect, many leave with only the clothes on their back. Now there’s a place in Spokane called “The Clothing Perk” where foster parents can get warm, clean clothes for those young children.

Follow us on Twitter

Support KARA buy our book or donate

Become part of KARA’s email network by sending a request to join to;

1 Comment

  1. I agree completely that child abuse has not dropped, and that states are moving the bar up at intake, even to the point of not responding at all to many called reports. Classifying reports can be put in more different levels when they are taken per priority when reality is that such screening delays response time, and relies on judgement of 1 recipient of call and info. being supplied as factual. I dare say that some of what may appear to be mild situations may well turn out to be severe upon investigation. Child abuse reports should automatically be received by both child welfare and law enforcement (could alternate time periods or whatever for which gets them first and ccs the other), and fears about over-reaction by the latter would be offset by this under-reaction on part of the former – which I believe exists due to combination of extreme views of family preservation and budget cuts – puts two in bed together, conservative and liberal. Thus, opening things up for public viewing is the only way to get true reform.

Comments are closed.