How bad is child neglect and abuse in the U.S.? And how much of an impact are State Child Protective Services departments having on this critical problem? States are making progress, but better technology and citizen engagement can help.
The Big, the Bad and the Ugly
According to UNICEF, as many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home, with 339,000 to 2.7 million estimated in just the U.S. alone.
Closer to home, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Administration for Children and Families reports in data collected from all 52 States that for FY 2013 (the latest date this report has been released), “approximately 3.9 million children were the subjects of at least one [neglect or abuse] report” with a fifth of those children classified as victims of maltreatment. That equates to 678,932 reported cases of child abuse and neglect, with 515,507 perpetrators of the crimes (an additional 2.5M children were considered non-victims for one reason or another). Of those almost 700K victims, only 58% of them received post-response services of some kind. Additional data from the report identified:
“Victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 23.1 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population. The majority of victims consisted of three races or ethnicities: White (44.0%), Hispanic (22.4%), and African-American (21.2%).”
Think of the data this way, these were the number of DOCUMENTED cases, not the number of actual cases that could have been identified in a perfect world.
If these numbers haven’t shocked you, how about this one:
Almost 3x the number of children have died from reported child abuse from 2001-2010 than all combined U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both populations equate to tragic losses which have left devastation and pain in their wakes, with the children impacted at their most vulnerable and victimized.
State Progress in Child Protection
A number of States have begun to take steps to improve their program processes to improve their child protection results. For example:
- Georgia’s Child Welfare Reform Council is addressing these concerns, and lay out their concerns and approach in a 2015 council report that includes processes and technology approaches. including the effort to: “Improve the technological tools available to DFCS and its employees, especially in the following ways:
- Improve the SHINES system, especially to ensure that it works more consistently.
- Assess whether mobile technology would increase productivity and effectiveness.
- Provide a caseload management system.
- Leverage information across state agencies, schools, and healthcare.
- Implement predictive analytics.”
- A November 2015 interview and news article with Mike Carroll, Department of Children and Families Secretary of Florida, [my State of residence] revealed very current and heartbreaking news. The Agency gets about 450 calls a year about child fatalities, and most of those are from homes where neglect had already been reported and DCF had previously contacted the family for an incident.
Georgia and Florida departments have been progressing in their steps to minimize these tragedies and improve processes and systems, like other States have done, but numbers are much too high. In fact, my company Contact Solutions has been assisting Georgia in part of those new efforts to ensure reports of child neglect and abuse get to case workers with more efficiency — so they can be actioned faster than ever before. Every one of the steps States take is critically important.
Help is Available!
State Departments of Child Protective Services cannot do it alone, and are not expected to have the expertise and resources internally to put preventative measures in place across all aspects of the child protection process.
Departments must implement plans, budgets, and measures that allow them to begin looking their Agency and even outside State resources for expertise, systems and partners who CAN provide improvements and help the Department help the most vulnerable of our populations.
Reach out and leverage those partners as the valuable resources they are meant to be.