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October 2007Vol. 8, No. 9Computing the Costs of Abuse and Neglect

While the value of safety, permanency, and well-being for the nation's children is priceless, there is a sobering monetary cost to society when children become victims of abuse and neglect. A recent study by the Center for Business and Economic Research of the University of Alabama evaluates the total yearly costs of child abuse and neglect in Alabama. Based on publicly available secondary data, the study looked at the direct and indirect costs of child abuse and neglect:

  • Direct costs totaled more than $392 million per year, including costs associated with patient hospitalization, low-birthweight infants, chronic health problems, mental health, the child welfare system, law enforcement, and judicial system costs.
  • Indirect costs totaled more than $129 million per year, including those associated with special education, juvenile delinquency, lost productivity to society or unemployment, and adult criminality, including incarceration.

The authors contrast the total annual costs of child abuse and neglect in Alabama ($521 million) with the $3.8 million spent on prevention services by the main provider of those services in Alabama, the Children's Trust Fund. They suggest that greater expenditures on prevention, including prenatal classes and parent education, could result in better outcomes for children, families, and society, as well as greater savings for taxpayers.

To read The Costs of Child Abuse vs. Child Abuse Prevention: Alabama’s Experience, by Annette Jones Watters et al., visit: (PDF - 999 KB)