Health & Family
Child Abuse & Neglect
One of the most important measures of a government is how it cares for its children. Child abuse and neglect occur in every segment of society, and are often the result of parents who were themselves abused or who do not have the resources to cope with difficult situations. Virginia emphasizes parental outreach and education as well as protection of abused children. Though there is no acceptable rate of child abuse and neglect, the Commonwealth's approach has resulted in a rate that is lower than half the national average.
Why is This Important?
In Virginia, a child is abused or neglected every 75 minutes, and every 14 days, a child dies from abuse or neglect. Not only is the immediate impact of abuse or neglect on a child tragic, but the long-term consequences of child maltreatment impacts children, their community and the Commonwealth. Much child abuse and neglect is hidden, may occur over time, and is preventable.
How is Virginia Doing?
Overall, Virginia appears to have a relatively low child maltreatment rate, with the third lowest rate in 2004 out of 48 states reporting. However, it is difficult to compare child maltreatment statistics across states. There is great variation in state laws, definitions, standards of evidence and record keeping. A change in procedures for handling and reporting alleged incidents of child maltreatment in Virginia, whereby reports may be referred for investigation or family assessment, occurred in May 2002. Nationally, the child maltreatment rate was 6.5 substantiated cases per 1,000 children in 2005. Virginia's rate was lower than the national rate, at 2.7 cases per 1,000 children in 2004. Pennsylvania's rate of 1.6 was the lowest in the nation. Virginia's rate was lower than that of North Carolina (7.4) and Tennessee (6.9). (Maryland's rate was not reported.)
Within Virginia, the Northern Region has the lowest rate of child maltreatment at 1.7 per 1,000 children. West Central and Southwest regions have the highest rates, with 6.6 and 6.8 substantiated cases per 1,000 children respectively.
What Influences Child Abuse and Neglect?
Child abuse and neglect are not confined to any particular socioeconomic class, race or ethnicity, or religion. However, there are a number of situations that place children at particular risk for being abused or neglected, including:
- Parents who were abused as children themselves;
- Teenage parents;
- Parental or family substance abuse;
- Parental depression, stress or other mental health problems;
- Family violence, such as intimate partner violence;
- Unemployment and poverty;
- Community violence;
- Family isolation;
- Lack of parental knowledge of child development and understanding children's needs; and
- Lack of parental support for dealing with children with disabilities or developmental delays.
What is the State's Role?
The Child Protective Services (CPS) Unit in the Division of Family Services at the Virginia Department of Social Services develops statewide public awareness and education programs; administers state and federal grants to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect; operates a 24-hour child abuse and neglect hotline; and maintains a database for child abuse and neglect.
Local social services departments are responsible for receiving reports of abuse and neglect and for conducting investigations or family assessments for valid CPS reports; and for providing services that enhance child safety and prevent further abuse and neglect to families and children.
Data Definitions and Sources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families. www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm04/
It is important to note that comparing rates with other states must be done with extreme caution, as statistics often reflect definitions and court practices that differ from state to state.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Guterman, N.B., Stopping Child Maltreatment Before It Starts: Emerging Horizons in Early Home Visitation Services. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001.
Thomas, Leicht, Hughes, Madigan, Dowell. (2003). Emerging Practice in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. National Clearninghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information.
National Research Council, Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Child Maltreatment 2003 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Child Maltreatment; Fact Sheet. Accessed April 11, 2005.
Tjaden P, Thoennes N. (November 2005). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington (DC): National Institute of Justice, Report No.: NCJ 183721.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. Child Maltreatment 1999, 2001.
"Long-term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect", National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (2005).
"The Long-Term Sequelae of Child and Adolescent Abuse: A Longitudinal Community Study" Child Abuse and Neglect, Col. 20. No. 8, pp. 709-723, 1996.
"In the Wake of Childhood Maltreatment", Juvenile Justice Bulletin, August 1997
"The Cycle of Violence Revisited", Research Preview, National Institute of Justice, February 1996.
"Preschool Antecedents of Adolescent Assaultive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study", Herrenkohl, Roy C., Ph.D., Egolf, Brenda P., Kerrenkohl, Ellen C., Ph.D., America Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 67(3), July 1997.
"The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study", American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1998; vol. 14 no. 4 pp. 245-258.
"Total Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States: Statistical Evidence", Fromm, Suzette (2001). (221k PDF)
Child Trends Databank