Findings from Recent Report on Child Abuse and Neglect

The federal office responsible for overseeing funds and programs that support prevention of child abuse, investigations of allegations of abuse, and services for children and youth who have contact with child welfare is the Children’s Bureau at the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Each year they report data on child abuse and neglect in the nation. The data includes national statistics and statistics by each state. The data reflect any reported case of child abuse or neglect which are then investigated and determinations made of any intervention needed. These data were recently released and I thought I would share the state of child abuse and neglect for youth in the nation and Washington DC.

  • The vast majority of reports of maltreatment across ages are made by professionals (e.g. teachers 19.4%, law enforcement 18.3%). This pattern is the same when you look at youth 14-17 or 18-21.
  • While the most vulnerable children for maltreatment remains infants, for youth the rate is about 6.6 per 1,000 which remains fairly steady from age 13-17. This means for every 1,000 youth in the nation in 2017, about 7 experienced maltreatment.[fn 1]
  • For the 2017 data, the highest rate of victimization in the US is for American-Indian or Alaskan Native children (14.3 per 1,000) with African-American children having the second highest rate (13.9 per 1,000 children).
  • Similar to the past, in 2017 the majority of children come into the child welfare system due to neglect (74.9%).
    • The data measure risk factors for child welfare involvement in parents and children. For parents, drug and alcohol abuse are common and both rates as the reason for child welfare involvement have increased (which may be due to better reporting or higher rates of abuse in the country). Many parents who have contact with child welfare also have risk factors related to low income and the presence of domestic violence.
  • Number of victims in DC:
    • The number of child victims in DC has gone down over time (a decrease of 20%) with 1,639 children in 2017 (a rate of 13.2 per 1,000 children).
    • The number of first time victims in DC has gone up from 2016 (989) to 2017 (1,202), an increase from 8.2 per 1,000 children in 2016 to 9.7 per 1,000 in 2017.
    • In DC there were between 64-78 new victims among children aged 10-16 in 2017 with only 33 new 17 year old victims in 2017 (12.2-13.9 per 1,000 rate from age 10-16 and 6.1 per 1,000 at age 17).
    • 1,405 of 1,639 victims in DC were for neglect (85.7%).
  • 16% of victims who received services in DC were placed in foster care.

fn 1: Expressing numbers as rates means as the population goes up or down, you can compare the number of children across years since both are compared to 1,000 children

Report citation: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2019). Child Maltreatment 2017. Available from

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