HHS Releases 2002 National Statistics on Child Abuse and Neglect

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HHS News Release

An estimated 896,000 children across the country were victims of abuse or neglect in 2002, according to national data released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The statistics indicate about 12.3 out of every 1,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect, a rate slightly below the previous year's victimization rate of 12.4 out of 1,000 children.

"Our hearts break when we hear of a child being physically or emotionally abused or neglected," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "The abuse of children remains a national tragedy that demands our commitment and action. President Bush's budget plan gives the child welfare system at the community level more resources and more flexibility to better protect children from abuse and neglect."

The statistics released today, at the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month, are based on information collected through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. The data show that child protective service agencies received about 2,600,000 reports of possible maltreatment in 2002. There were 896,000 substantiated cases of maltreatment of children - the majority of which involved cases of neglect. About 1,400 children died of abuse or neglect, a rate of 1.98 children per 100,000 children in the population.

The rate of child neglect and abuse in 2002 was about 20 percent less than the rate in 1993, when maltreatment peaked at an estimated 15.3 out of every 1,000 children. As recently as 1998, the rate was 12.9 per 1,000 children. During the past three reporting years, the maltreatment rate has been fairly constant. Rates for 2000, 2001, and 2002 were 12.2, 12.4, and 12.3 respectively.

Also today, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona announced he would create a new working group to focus attention on the problem of child abuse and neglect and to identify ways to reduce it. The Surgeon General's Workshop on Child Maltreatment will involve experts in criminal justice, medicine, child welfare and education.

"While child maltreatment has traditionally been thought of as a criminal justice issue, it is also very much a public health issue," Dr. Carmona said. "The wrenching mental and physical health effects of child maltreatment continue for that child long after he or she is placed in a safe environment. And the frequency with which child maltreatment occurs in our society compels us to be aggressive in developing ways to stop it. This new Surgeon General's Workshop on Child Maltreatment will help shine a bright light on this problem and help find ways to end this scourge in society."

President Bush's fiscal year 2005 budget proposal for HHS would double funding for two critical child abuse prevention programs. For the Basic State Grant Program, the funding would increase from $21 million this year to $42 million next year. This program provides funds for states to improve their child protective service systems.

For the Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, funding would increase from $32 million this year to $66 million in fiscal year 2005. The additional funds would enhance states' ability to investigate reports of abuse and neglect, to reach more at risk children and families with prevention services and to provide additional types of community-based prevention services including home visiting, parent education, parent support, respite care, outreach and education, and other family support services.

In addition, the President's fiscal year 2005 budget proposal would fully fund the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program at its authorized level of $505 million -- an increase of more than $100 million above the amount appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2004. This program supports a wide array of services to support, strengthen and preserve families at risk for abuse or neglect.

"President Bush realizes effective child welfare isn't just about more money. It's also about greater flexibility," said Wade Horn, Ph.D., assistant secretary for children and families.

As part of HHS' fiscal year 2004 budget request, the Bush Administration proposed a new approach to protecting children in the child welfare system. Under the plan, states and tribes would have the option of using some money now designated solely for foster care to support a range of abuse-prevention services and programs. The proposal provides the flexibility and sustained financial support necessary to build innovative programs for children and families aimed at preventing maltreatment and removal from home.

The full report, "Child Maltreatment 2002," is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cm02/index.htm.

Contact: Chris Downing
ACF Press Office (202) 401-9215
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