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April 2005Vol. 6, No. 3HHS Releases National Statistics on Child Abuse and Neglect for 2003

According to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 906,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect in 2003. The rate of victimization for 2003 was 12.4 victims per 1,000 children—a rate that has remained fairly steady for the last few years (12.3 in 2002 and 12.4 in 2001) but that represents a significant decrease from 1993, when the rate of abused and neglected children peaked at 15.3 per 1,000 children.

Among the victims in 2003, 60.9 percent experienced neglect, while 18.9 percent were physically abused, 9.9 percent suffered sexual abuse, 4.9 percent were emotionally or psychologically abused, and 2.3 percent suffered medical neglect. Some children suffered multiple types of abuse. An estimated 1,500 children died from abuse or neglect, 78.7 percent of whom were younger than 4 years old.

Child abuse and neglect is often discovered because of reports from mandated reporters. While the definition of mandated reporters varies from State to State, it commonly includes such professionals as teachers, doctors, social services workers, law enforcement personnel, and daycare providers—those who are required by law to report suspicions of abuse or neglect. Of the estimated 2.9 million reports made to State child protective services (CPS) agencies in 2003, approximately 57 percent were made by mandated reporters. The other 43 percent were made by nonprofessionals, such as friends and neighbors.

The 2.9 million reports made in 2003 were screened by CPS agencies, and 1.9 million were investigated. Approximately 30 percent of the reports included at least one child who was a victim of abuse or neglect. As a result of these investigations, services were provided to 57 percent of victims and 25 percent of nonvictims. These included services provided to families in the home and, for 15 percent of victims, they included foster care (for children removed from the home).

The release of the full report, Child Maltreatment 2003, is timed to coincide with the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The statistics found in the report are based on information collected through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Maltreatment 2003 is available on the HHS Children’s Bureau website at