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More than 750,000 children are abused or neglected each year in America. Child maltreatment does not fall exclusively on any particular group of children or families, however substance abuse, untreated mental health problems, domestic violence, and social or financial stress can put children at increased risk of child abuse and neglect. To prevent child maltreatment it is critical to address the needs of the whole family.
Treating families’ problems and helping parents get the services they need to stay employed, remain healthy, treat their substance abuse, or help them escape domestic violence can prevent families from coming to the attention of the child welfare system. In addition to treating children after they have been abused or neglected, we must invest more in prevention and specialized treatment to strengthen families and ensure that no child is maltreated. Building public awareness, creating supportive communities and establishing partnerships with organizations and community leaders to prevent child abuse and neglect are all important tools to prevent child abuse.
Investing more in prevention also makes good economic sense because prevention programs are cost-effective. Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that the cost of child maltreatment when not prevented is nearly $104 billion each year – or over $280 million each day - in direct and indirect costs.
Every 42 seconds a child is abused or neglected. More than 750,000 children were abused or neglected in 2009. Nearly 80 percent of these were victims of neglect. Forty percent of the abused or neglected children received services. Faced with the current economic crisis, many families are struggling with unemployment, homelessness, hunger and loss of important services. It is now more critical than ever to ensure that these children and families get help. Recent passage of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will help millions of parents and children get the health coverage they need. The health reform legislation also makes significant investments in prevention. It establishes a $1.5 billion Early Childhood Home Visiting program, (Sec. 2951), which will deliver in-home early education and support services to families with young children and families expecting children. Quality, evidence-based home visitation services produce improved outcomes for children and families in important areas: child health and development, greater school readiness, academic achievement, parental involvement, parental employment and economic self sufficiency, and reduced child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency. Learn more about this new prevention by viewing New Investments to Help Children and Families: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.