Nearly Four in 10 Kids Are Involved in Maltreatment Investigations by Age 18

Posted March 29, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog nearlyfourin10kids 2017

By the time kids in the Unit­ed States reach adult­hood, 37% have crossed paths with Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices as poten­tial vic­tims of mal­treat­ment, accord­ing to a new study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health. 

The study, Life­time Preva­lence of Inves­ti­gat­ing Child Mal­treat­ment Among U.S. Chil­dren, draws on Nation­al Child Abuse and Neglect Data Sys­tem Child Files from 2003 to 2014 as well as U.S. Cen­sus Bureau data to esti­mate the cumu­la­tive preva­lence of report­ed child­hood mal­treat­ment. It also reviews mal­treat­ment by sub­type, age and ethnicity.

It is pret­ty shock­ing to think child wel­fare agen­cies per­form so many mal­treat­ment inves­ti­ga­tions, yet still miss many kids whose abuse goes unre­port­ed,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor and man­ag­er of the Casey Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group.

The life­time rate of mal­treat­ment inves­ti­ga­tions — which cov­ers a time span from birth to age 18 — varies wide­ly by race, accord­ing to researchers from Wash­ing­ton University’s Brown School of Social Work and Pub­lic Health, who co-authored the study.

This rate is high­est — at 53% — for black chil­dren. It drops to 32% for His­pan­ic chil­dren; 28% for white chil­dren; 23% for Native Amer­i­can chil­dren; and to just 10% for Asian and Pacif­ic Islanders.

The fact that black kids are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly involved in mal­treat­ment inves­ti­ga­tions rel­a­tive to peers of oth­er races and eth­nic­i­ties sug­gests that the inves­ti­ga­tions process needs a lot of work,” says Feild. We must fig­ure out what requires a mal­treat­ment inves­ti­ga­tion, what con­firms a report of mal­treat­ment — and why we are see­ing such clear dif­fer­ences in inves­ti­ga­tion rates by race.”

Answer­ing these ques­tions is crit­i­cal, says Feild. Children’s well-being — and, in some cas­es, their lives — hangs in the balance.”

Go to the study.

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