In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let's review the extent and costs of child abuse and neglect in the United States.
(Warning! Statistics ahead, but only a few.)
In 2006 (the year the most recent statistics are available), 3.3 million reports were made to child protective services of suspected child abuse or neglect on behalf of 6 million children in the United States. As a result of these reports, 905,000 children were determined to have been abused or neglected. Approximately 64% were neglected, 16% were physically abused, 9% were sexually abused, and 7% were emotionally abused or neglected. An estimated 1,530 children died due to abuse or neglect. Child Maltreatment, 2006, Washington,DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2008.
The direct cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States totals more than $33 billion annually. (This figure includes law enforcement, judicial system, child welfare, and health care costs.) After adding in the indirect costs (special education, mental health care, juvenile delinquency, lost productivity, and adult criminality), the amount is more than $103 billion annually. Ching-Tung Wang and John Holton, Total Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, Washington, DC: Prevent Child Abuse America, 2007.
(End of statistics. That wasn't so bad, now was it?)
It's in all our interests to do what we can to prevent child abuse and neglect. The Children's Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services provides some resources to do so via it's Child Welfare Information Gateway (along with many more statistics for those inclined).
One set of resources for National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a series of tip sheets for parents and caregivers. All six are available in pdf format individually or as a set. They are also available in Spanish. Titles and descriptions follow.
Strong bonds between babies and caregivers help babies' bodies and brains grow. This tip sheet helps parents understand normal infant behavior, the importance of nurturing and attachment, and what parents can do to develop strong bonds with their babies.
A young child's tantrums can be stressful for parents. This tip sheet helps parents understand why toddlers have tantrums, what they can do to help prevent tantrums, and how to handle them calmly when they occur.
Teens are becoming more independent, but they still need their parents' love, support, and guidance. This tip sheet helps parents understand typical teen behavior. It offers suggestions for how parents can use simple, everyday activities to reinforce their connection with their teens and show they care.
Being a teen parent is a 24-hour-a-day job and can feel overwhelming at times. This tip sheet reassures teen parents that these feelings are normal. It offers suggestions for reducing stress, improving parenting skills, and finding help when needed.
Fathers who spend time with their children increase the chances that their children will succeed in school, have fewer behavior problems, and experience better self-esteem. This tip sheet lists 10 concrete ways that fathers can enhance their involvement in their children's lives.
When children can't be with their parents, a grandparent's home can provide stability and comfort. This tip sheet helps grandparent caregivers understand how their grandchildren may be feeling, how to help children feel safe and secure in their home, and where to find support in their community if needed.
These tip sheets are an example of what's known as universal prevention. They are aimed at everyone, not just parents who are at risk to abuse or neglect their children. The idea is to give all parents and caregivers helpful tips to strengthen their parenting skills and their families. Take a look. You may find you already know most of this, but I'll bet there are some you'd like to practice more often with your own children.