Focus on the Figures: Reasons for Removal from Home

Every other week, The Chronicle of Social Change features one key indicator from, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well-being of children across California.

There are many different specific reasons for the removal of a child from his or her parents. But their are three general types of maltreatment measured by child welfare agencies: general neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while the death rate among physically abused children is substantially higher than that of neglected children, neglected children are more likely to die of an unintentional injury than children who have been physically abused.

This chart breaks down the reason for a child’s first removal into care, in California, for the period 2010 to 2012.


In addition to being the most common type of child maltreatment in California and nationwide, general neglect is the most common reason for placement into foster care. General neglect occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver fails to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurs.

In 2010-12, 81 percent of children entering foster care for the first time in California were removed from their families due to neglect, compared to 10 percent due to physical abuse and 3 percent due to sexual abuse.

There are not national statistics on the reason for first removal, but federally collected data suggests that about 78 percent of victims suffered from neglect.

Another indicator tracked by KidsData – Substantiation of Maltreatment, by Type – suggests that most of the nature of the neglect in most removals was not “severe.” Only 3.5 percent of the neglect involved in substantiated maltreatment met that threshold, which according to federal guidelines “occurs when severe or long-term harm has been done to the child.”

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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  1. Having first hand experience of a social worker from cps knocking at our door, then reading her interpretation of our family in the report, which painted our family to be of a certain social dynamic that was not true, this scares me. Neglect can be a very subjective interpretation, and having first hand knowledge of how some social workers can bully and intimidate with no accountability, this statistical data is concerning. Is removal of the child easier than dealing with some difficult families in working to help them create a better environment for their children?

  2. Extended family placement for children works better for the children and working in the homes with the families is more impactful and a quicker return home then taking them away from the parents for years and years and bouncing them from home to home.

  3. Thanks for this article. It is quite compelling data, and more importantly, makes a strong case that perhaps removal from the home is not used as a last resort when it should be, especially not if 81% of the youth removed are removed for things other than abuse / sexual abuse.

    For example, as you note, neglect includes a parental / guardian failure “to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurs.” Imagine if we spent the same dollars per day on an out-of-home placement on helping to support the “neglectful” family instead: Might we be able to keep the youth in his or her home, help the parents meet their child’s needs and avoid family separation and expensive out-of-home placements?

  4. I find the that neglect is mostly used and can be misused … How does this data measure on your findings . I more interested in how many of those children taken was legally obtained and was not a factor in the abuse of power! Please share that data !

    • Kelly, thanks for the comment. I think as far as data collection goes, it would be difficult to measure “misuse.” Which is not to say that it doesn’t occur, I just am not aware of who would tally this and how.

      When you say that you “find the that neglect is mostly used and can be misused,” what are you referring to specifically? You can e-mail me at


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