After rising for three consecutive years, the number of children who were victims of child maltreatment in the U.S. dropped by 1 percent in the 2016 fiscal year, while the number of child deaths from maltreatment rose by 7 percent, according to a federal report released on Thursday.
The term “child maltreatment” refers to both child abuse and neglect. Based on data provided by states and published in a report from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the number of victims of physical or sexual abuse increased from the previous year, while the number of neglect victims decreased.
The overall decrease in victims occurred despite child protective services agencies receiving more alerts about alleged child abuse or neglect and conducting more investigations and alternative responses.
In federal fiscal year 2016 – which ran from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016 – 676,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect, a rate that came to 9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population. Last year’s report found that in 2015 there were 683,000 victims, a rate of 9.2 victims per 1,000 children.
Child fatalities resulting from child maltreatment rose to 1,700 in 2016, compared with 1,589 fatalities reported in the previous year.
“Helping state child welfare agencies prevent and address child abuse and neglect is one of our top priorities this year,” said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for children and families at ACF, in a press release announcing the report. “Collaborating with state child protective services helps us collect case-level data to better understand what’s occurring in a home when a child is neglected or abused.”
The child maltreatment report is drawn from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) dataset, a voluntary national data collection and analysis program of state child abuse and neglect information based upon data submitted by the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The report estimates that almost 3.5 million children in the U.S. received a child protective services investigation response or alternative response sometime during the year. That is 9.5 percent higher than in 2012.
The states with the highest rates of child maltreatment victims were Massachusetts, Indiana and Michigan. The states with the highest rates of child deaths were West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas.