Focus on the Figures is a regular partnership between The Chronicle of Social Change and KidsData.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing data on the health and well-being of California’s children.
In 2014, there were 496,972 reports (allegations) of child abuse and neglect in California. The rate of abuse and neglect reports, 54.6 per 1,000, is the highest its been since 1999.
Of those reports, 79,179 (or 16 percent), were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system. About two-thirds of verified cases were due to general neglect, which includes cases where the parent, guardian, or caregiver failed to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurred. Neglect consistently has been the most common type of substantiated case statewide and in nearly all counties for which these data are available.
The upward trend in report rates has coincided with an increase in the number of youth in foster care. The foster care rolls in California have risen from 55,286 in 2012 to 62,097 in 2014. That increase accounts for about one-third of the total national increase in foster youths from 2012 to 2014.
As the rate of child abuse and neglect reports has risen, the rate of substantiation has dropped. California’s rate of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect declined from 12.0 cases per 1,000 children in 1998 to 8.7 in 2014.
Children ages 0-5 make up nearly half of all substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect in California; they comprised 47 percent of all cases in 2014, up from 40 percent in 1998.
Statewide, child abuse and neglect cases disproportionately involve children of color, particularly African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children. For more information on racial disproportionality in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway or the Center for the Study of Social Policy.