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Without safe, permanent and nurturing families, children too often end up coming to the attention of state and local child protection systems. Many are abused or neglected or at risk of maltreatment because they lack basic supports, such as adequate income, housing and education and special education services, but many also face multiple risks, including substance abuse, unmet mental health needs, and domestic violence or other trauma.
More than 750,000 children in America are abused or neglected - one every 42 seconds. Almost 80 percent of maltreatment cases are for neglect, and infants are the most likely to suffer from maltreatment. Forty percent of children reported for maltreatment get no services at all after the initial investigation. The other 60 percent get some services but not necessarily the right services. Forty to 80 percent of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases involve parental substance abuse, yet less than one-third get treatment.
Although the vast majority of abused and neglected children remain at home, each year more than 800,000 children spend time in foster care; on average children spend just over two years in foster care. Black children are twice as likely to be placed in foster care as other children and they remain in care longer.
Child welfare agencies often cannot appropriately meet children's needs because the quality of the child welfare workforce is lacking. It is burdened by high caseloads and rapid turnover. The average tenure of a child welfare caseworker is less than two years.
The annual total direct and indirect costs of child maltreatment are estimated to be nearly $104 billion. Additionally, children who face multiple risks carry the consequences with them as they get older and children left without permanent family connections have no one to whom they can turn for social, emotional or financial support and face numerous barriers as they struggle to become self-sufficient adults and productive members of our communities.
Our goal must be to keep children safely with their families and to decrease the numbers of children coming to the attention of the child welfare system. More appropriate supports for children, their birth families and extended families, can help to keep children safely together and out of foster care. They can also promote timely reunification, adoption, and other permanent family connections for children in foster care and prevent large numbers of youth from having to age out of foster care each year without permanent families. We must support:
Additionally, keeping children safe must be everybody's business. It is critically important that families and friends reach out to parents and children when a helping hand or other respite could make a big difference. Faith and other community-based organizations also can provide important supports for families, as can the array of early childhood and health programs that often touch young children.
CDF works to give every child a Safe Start in a permanent nurturing family and community. We work in collaboration with other national, state and local advocates and organizations to promote policies and promising systemic and programmatic approaches that strengthen and support children and families, prevent crises from occurring, and help ensure children safe, permanent families.