Child maltreatment is often measured by lives forever scarred by trauma and families torn apart, but a new study estimates that each case of abuse also carries a hefty price tag.
According to researchers with the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center in collaboration and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, each incidence of child abuse costs the public $400,533 over the course of a victim’s lifetime.
For the city of San Francisco, the total cost of child maltreatment was $301.6 million, a number that factors in the 753 cases of substantiated child abuse in 2015.
In the “The Economics of Child Abuse: A Study of San Francisco,” a study released on Thursday by the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, the economic burden of child maltreatment is examined long after the child abuse has occurred.
Each child who has a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect incurs $11,035 in costs related to the utilization of services from child welfare agencies. The average cost of special education services for a child who has suffered maltreatment is $12,891.
Health care costs over a lifetime for a victim of abuse or neglect are steep. The total costs of health care over a lifetime come to $54,553, with $41,025 of the costs borne during childhood. This takes into account inpatient hospital stays, mental health services and prescription drugs in the immediate aftermath of child maltreatment. But lifelong health consequences also include chronic health issues, substance abuse and mental health issues, among others.
Because victims of child abuse are more likely to become involved with both the juvenile and adult justice systems, costs of criminal justice are significant. On average, $7,637 per victim goes toward criminal justice. Even after childhood, victims of child abuse are 28 percent more likely than other children to have an adult criminal record.
Finally, child maltreatment can dramatically reshape expectations of lifetime productivity, which includes the loss of employment opportunities and the broader economic costs to businesses in San Francisco.
The researchers also tallied the economic costs of child abuse fatalities. For every child killed as a result of child maltreatment, the total cost is $2,659,649. The number takes into account one time medical fees as well as $2,641,655 in lost potential lifetime earnings.
Though the cost of child maltreatment is steep, researchers say that the estimates are conservative; the actual number may be much higher, as much as $5.6 billion. This is because many cases of abuse are not substantiated, are under-reported or have difficult-to-quantify costs.
The study concludes with three ways child abuse can be prevented:
- Adopting a public health approach toward child abuse prevention
- Providing greater access to services
- Promoting education, including increased awareness of protective factors
To read the full report, click here.