New Study Shows Heightened Child Abuse Threat

A reckoning is coming in child protection.

On December 2, the new and increasingly influential Children’s Data Network partnered with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project to release a slew of studies showing that one in seven of all California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had been reported for abuse or neglect by age five.

This is nearly three times the annual rate of child abuse reports in California.

The new research, which was funded by First 5 LA, linked birth records for the more than one million babies born in California in 2006 and 2007 to Child Protective Services records through their fifth birthdays.

The findings build on a small but growing body of data linkage research that is clearly showing that the child maltreatment threat is more prevalent than we as a culture ever knew before. This begs an important question: to what degree are public systems oriented to meet that threat?

Credit: Children's Data Network This graph clearly shows how much more prevalent child abuse and neglect is when looked at cumulatively.
Credit: Children’s Data Network
This graph clearly shows how much more prevalent child abuse and neglect is when looked at cumulatively.

“Much of what we know—or think we know—about risk factors for child abuse and neglect is based on point-in-time (cross-sectional) and retrospective studies of children reported for maltreatment,” the Children’s Data Network website reads. “These estimates give the impression that only a small share of children are maltreated or placed in foster care, whereas cumulative estimates demonstrate the true severity of the risks and the resulting public health burden.”

Beyond the prevalence of reported abuse, the rate at which children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the study was higher than most counts. By age five, 5.1 percent of California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had substantiated reports of abuse and neglect. That is 55,881 babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

This is five times the rate one would glean from federal data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, which has consistently reported that about one in 100 children will be confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in a given year.

The Data Network’s latest findings come on the heels of a blockbuster study released in June. Yale University researcher Christopher Wildeman and colleagues — including Emily Putnam-Hornstein, the director of the Data Network — published results after sifting through 5.6 million child abuse records housed in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

By age 18, the researchers found, one in eight American children will have the experience of a social worker entering their home and determining that they were abused or neglected.

This all points to a pressing question in the world of child protection.

Cumulative rates of reported and substantiated child abuse and neglect are as much as eight times the annual rates reported by venerable, trustworthy state and national data systems.

This makes it hard to credibly assume that our current child protection system is built to meet the challenge it faces. So how would one go about building a child protection system that could? How would one orient all the public systems that touch children to better address child maltreatment?

These are questions we at The Chronicle of Social Change will explore in more depth. But for now, thanks to the Children’s Data Network, we have an ever-clarifying picture of the scope of child maltreatment.

Fully understanding the problem is an important step towards finding the solution.

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Daniel Heimpel, Publisher, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Daniel Heimpel, Publisher, The Chronicle of Social Change 182 Articles
Daniel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at


  1. You are idiots & criminals! Don’t you know these are manufactured stats are created to validate the kidnapping of so many babies & children from good, loving and fit homes – ASFA created a monster – more kids are NOT being abused. They are merely re-defining abuse so they can have merchandise to traffic for the $$$$ – federal cash for kids – quotas for adoption and penalties for re-unification!

  2. Solutions:
    Stop investigating anonymous allegations. Most are false reports and divert resources from actual criminal abuse.

    Stop investigating non-criminal abuse such as “neglect” and “emotional abuse”. The problem with these categories is that abuse becomes whatever CPS says it is. Then anyone can have any of their children taken at any time for any reason. Investigating non-criminal allegations against innocent families diverts resources away from children that are actually in need from protection against people that would criminally physically or sexually abuse children.

    Local governments need to stop accepting federal money for removing children from their families. This give the impression that children are needlessly taken away from innocent families only to get money from the federal government. Even if untrue, this creates a credibility issue for CPS. If good people are less willing to cooperate with CPS, then there is more chance that criminally abused children will be missed and not helped by the system.

  3. In an attempt to expose, confront, and stop DCFS abuse I have started the Liberty Scraps channel. I will be seeking out and posting videos that highlight the fight against DCFS / CPS corruption. We must fight and scrap to maintain, preserve, and expand upon the few scraps of liberty our current police state allows.

    I am a 21 year police veteran and current police detective that has actively investigated hundreds of child abuse cases. I am also a victim of DCFS corruption. I offer the following advice: Do not ever speak to DCFS…When they come to your home, step outside and close the door behind you…Collect their business card and listen to the allegation against you…Then exert your right to reman silent and do so…Do not answer ANY questions. Do not allow them into your home. Do not allow them to see or interview your children. Do not sign anything. Do not provide them with ANY information about your children or family. If you have time, record the at the door encounter. If your children are old enough, teach them how to exercise their right to remain silent; children should exercise their right to remain silent if interviewed at school or if DCFS comes back to your home with an investigative warrant (school interviews can be avoided by home schooling your children). Any investigative warrant obtained solely on an uncorroborated anonymous allegation to the DCFS hotline is illegal; you should seek an attorney to file a federal civil rights lawsuit under 42 USC 1983 if DCFS serves an illegal warrant on your home.

    • This has been the exact case with a family member of mine. 2 of her children were placed in state custody because she caused “emotional abuse” following allegations made to a school counselor. Im all about both parents being investigated. These are children. We are their advocates. But this was not done ethically or with any regard to the well being of the children. The system is being congested by kids that shouldnt be removed and kids that need to be are being left in drug homes and homes where abuse continues to take place. Is there any help?

  4. Thank you for this information – our medical team has seen an increase of serious injuries over the prior 2 years.

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