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More than 750,000 children each year in America are abused or neglected, one every 42 seconds. Forty percent of these children get no services at all after the initial investigation. Forty to 80 percent of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases involve parental substance abuse. Child maltreatment costs the United States more than $284 million every day – nearly $104 billion each year, in direct and indirect costs.
Child abuse and neglect is the leading reason children and families come to the attention of the child welfare system. There were 751,049 children reported abused and neglected in 2009. Reports of child abuse and neglect are made to public child protective service agencies and are “screened in” if there is sufficient evidence of maltreatment, or is “screened out” if there is not enough information on which to follow up the situation. Those cases screened in are then investigated, or in some cases referred for community services.
Research indicates that abused and neglected children are at increased risk of being trapped in the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. They are more likely than others to be delinquent and arrested as adults. We must work to reduce child abuse and neglect by increasing investments in prevention and specialized treatment services for children and their parents.
Infants and toddlers are the age group most vulnerable to child abuse and neglect and the largest group of children entering foster care. Just as their brains are undergoing dramatic development, these young children experience maltreatment that can lead to permanent damage to the brain’s architecture and lifelong problems. When not attuned to developmental needs, child welfare practices can compound this damage. CDF, in collaboration with ZERO TO THREE and other early childhood and child welfare organizations, recently released A Call to Action on Behalf of Maltreated Infants and Toddlers, with recommendations for policies, programs and practices to better address the developmental needs of infants and toddlers who come to the attention of the child welfare system. It provides a starting point for federal, state, and local policymakers and administrators to assess and identify where and how they can revise or institute policies and practices that protect the development of infants and toddlers and their safety.