Child Welfare

New Report Shows Slight Increase in Child Abuse and Neglect

January 31, 2020 | National

Earlier this month, the Children’s Bureau released Child Maltreatment 2018, the 29th annual report from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). In 1988, NCANDS was created as a national program for the collection and analysis of state-level child abuse and neglect data. Since that time, all fifty states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia voluntarily submit case-level data, as well as agency-level aggregate statistics for data that can’t be reported at case-level. The information included in NCANDS is an important resource for understanding the realities of child abuse and neglect in America and is a vital tool for programs and organizations working to protect children.

In this year’s report, we learned that 678,000 children were deemed to be victims of child maltreatment in 2018, a slight increase over the previous year. Of those, 60.8 percent were victims of neglect, 10.7 percent suffered physical abuse and 7.0 percent were victims of sexual abuse. A further 15.5% of all victims suffered more than one form of maltreatment. Additionally, 2018 saw a slight increase in maltreatment fatalities with 1,770 children dying as a result of neglect or abuse.

There is significant variation in maltreatment rates showcased within the report. While the national rate for child maltreatment was 9.2 per 1,000 children, some states saw rates as low as 1.8 per 1,000 and others as high as 23.5 per 1,000 children. Boys and girls face maltreatment at similar rates, but there is significant variation across racial lines. The maltreatment rate for white children and Hispanic children was 8.2 and 8.1 per 1,000 respectively, but 14 per 1000 for African American children. American Indian and Alaska Native children had the highest rates of maltreatment at 15.2 per 1,000 children.

There is significant variation by age as well, with the youngest children being most vulnerable. Children under one year of age have a maltreatment rate of 26.7 per 1,000 children, more than double the rate for any other age group. Infants also made up a staggering 46.6 percent of all child maltreatment fatalities.

This year, for the first time, the Child Maltreatment report contains data on two new measures that states have been tracking: sex trafficking and infants with prenatal substance exposure. Both measures are still in their nascent stages, with many states not yet report. Still, it is encouraging to see that the child welfare community is increasing focus on these vulnerable groups. The numbers reported in this year’s NCANDS will serve as a baseline to help us understand and combat sex trafficking and prenatal substance exposure going forward.

The data in Child Maltreatment 2018 will be an important tool for advocates working to end child abuse and neglect. The information outlined here is just a small fraction of what is contained in the report. To learn more, find Child Maltreatment 2018 at