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Child Abuse

Child abuse in the United States is principally the responsibility of states and local governments. Each of the 50 states has enacted laws defining child abuse and maltreatment, determining when outside intervention is required, and establishing administrative and judicial structures to deal with maltreatment when it is identified.

According to data from the Administration on Children and Families, in 1998 there were an estimated 2,806,000 referrals of child abuse or neglect to relevant state or local agencies. These referrals resulted in an estimated 903,000 confirmed victims of maltreatment, a rate of 12.9 per 1,000 children nationwide. Of these, 11.5 percent suffered sexual abuse, 22.7 percent suffered physical abuse, and 53.5 percent suffered neglect. A quarter were victims of more than one type of maltreatment. Additionally, approximately 1,100 children died of abuse or neglect, a rate of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 children. Of all forms of abuse, about three quarters of the perpetrators were parents.

In most cases an initial report of abuse or neglect can come from anyone. In 1998, a little over half of all reports (53.1%) came from professionals, including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, child care providers, social service providers, and law enforcement officials. The remainder (46.7%) came from nonprofessionals, including family members and other members of the community.

After an incident has been reported, the appropriate child protective services agency will usually investigate and determine whether abuse or neglect has actually taken place. In some cases this will result in treatment or services. Other cases may be referred to juvenile or family courts for resolution. Extreme cases of abuse may be referred to criminal courts. Of the 903,000 children who were identified as victims of abuse in 1998, an estimated 409,000 received services of some kind and 144,000 were placed in foster care.

While principal responsibility for addressing child abuse rests with states and local governments, the federal government does play an important supporting role. In 1974, Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247), establishing the legal framework for current federal efforts which focus on data collection and technical assistance to states. Such efforts are coordinated through the Children's Bureau, a division of the Administration on Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.

- 3/1/01



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  • Children's Bureau: An agency within the Administration for Children and Families in the US Department of Health and Human Services. It provides grants to states and communities to operate a range of child welfare services including child protective services (child abuse and neglect) family preservation and support, foster care, adoption and independent living.
  • National and state data on children and their families collected and published by various federal statistical agencies.
Site Listings

  • - Child Abuse Legal Issues: Opinions, facts, and news items representing both sides of this controversial issue.
  • American Humane Association: Learn more about the link between violence to humans and animals and what you can do to help break the cycle of violence.
  • American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children: A nonprofit national organization for professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. Disseminates of state-of-the-art practice in all professional disciplines related to child abuse and neglect.
  • Child Abuse Prevention Network: An organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Founded in July 1995, as an outreach project of the Family Life Development Center, Cornell University, and subsequently sponsored by LifeNET, Inc.
  • Child Abuse Statistics, Research, and Resources: Resources on child abuse, including statistics from the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia; recommended books and web sites for survivors and caregivers; discussions of the nature of child abuse statistics; and helpful tools for understanding how child abuse can lead to psychological harm.
  • Children Now: Recognized for its expertise in media as a tool for change, Children Now designs its strategies to improve children's lives while at the same time helping America build a sustained commitment to putting children first.
  • ECPAT International: A global network of organisations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
  • International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect: ISPCAN is an international child advocacy , right's of the child not for profit organization
  • Mothers of Lost Children: Organization for women who have lost custody of their children as a result of making child abuse allegations.
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Provides services nationwide for families and professionals in the prevention of abducted, endangered, and sexually exploited children.
  • National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information: Providing an array of products and services related to state laws pertaining to child abuse and neglect and related child welfare issues.
  • National Council on Crime and Delinquency & the Children's Research Center: A nonprofit organization romoting effective, humane, fair and economically sound solutions to family, community and justice problems. NCCD conducts research, promotes reform, and works to reduce crime and delinquency. Contains research findings, publications and internet resources on child victimization.
  • National Data Archive: A U.S. child abuse and neglect data archive serving researchers performing secondary analysis with statistical software.
  • National Foundation for Abused and Neglected Children: A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of juvenile justice, research into the incidence, cause, and the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

  • An Introduction to Child Abuse: The decades of the 70s and 80s saw child welfare agencies transformed from foster care agencies to protective service organizations whose resources were shifted from providing services to needy children and families to investigating and intervening in the increasing number of child abuse reports (undated).
  • Child Maltreatment: Child maltreatment is the term used to describe child abuse and neglect and encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse (National Association of Counsel for Children: undated).
  • Child Neglect - A Guide For Intervention: National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Child Welfare Articles: A collection of articles on child welfare issues from Child
  • Law Enforcement Response to Child Abuse: This guide arms law enforcement professionals with the information needed to ensure consistency in their investigation of child abuse.
  • Representing A Child in Abuse and Neglect Cases: American Bar Association standards of practice for lawyers.
  • Safe From the Start - Reducing Children's Exposure to Violence: Report from the California Attorney General's Office on strategies and best practices to reduce exposure of children to violence in homes and communities (PDF file: undated).

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