HHS report: Child abuse cases down, fatalities up

HHS annual child abuse report: The number of US children victimized by abuse and neglect has dropped for the sixth straight year, but child fatalities linked to maltreatment increased by nearly 4 percent.

Michael Bonfigli for The Christian Science Monitor
US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talks with reporters at a Monitor Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 30, 2010. The US Department of Health and Human Services released a report on Tuesday about child abuse cases in the US.

The number of US children victimized by abuse and neglect has dropped for the sixth straight year, but child fatalities linked to maltreatment increased by nearly 4 percent, according to the latest federal data.

According to the annual report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2012 fiscal year was 686,000. That's down from 688,000 in 2011 and from 723,000 in 2007.

But the report found that fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect increased from 1,580 in 2011 to 1,640 in 2012.

HHS said further research would be needed to determine whether this represented a real increase in child fatalities or reflected improvements in how states investigate and report these cases to determine which can be attributed to abuse.

Two years ago, a Government Accountability Office report asserted that states used flawed methods to tally and analyze the deaths of children who have been maltreated. It said annual estimates of such deaths were likely too low.

About 70 percent of the 2012 fatalities involved children younger than 3, and parents were the perpetrators in 80 percent of the cases. Texas reported the most fatalities, with 215, followed by Florida with 179 and California with 128.

Overall, white children accounted for about 44 percent of the victims of maltreatment, black children about 21 percent, and Hispanic children about 22 percent; 78.3 percent of the victims suffered neglect, 18.3 percent were physically abused and 9.3 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 62,936 children who were sexually abused in 2012 – up slightly from 2011 but down considerably from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.

The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state.

Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, said the changes from 2011 to 2012 appeared to be minor, which he took as a positive sign.

"The key thing everyone has been on the lookout for is whether several years of economic stress and high unemployment have been taking their toll on family life and increasing the inclination to take it out [on] kids, while state budget cuts make protection less available," Finkelhor wrote in an email.

Given the pessimistic expectations, Finkelhor wrote, the minimal change depicted in the report "is good news."

Jim Hmurovich, president of Prevent Child Abuse America, said he also was pleased by the steady decrease in maltreatment reports, but expressed some regret that the department did not provide more insight on what factors might be driving that trend.

"It's hard to evaluate whether we're making a difference, or how we're making a difference," he said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to HHS report: Child abuse cases down, fatalities up
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today