The Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect

Healthy families mean healthy children. Healthy communities. A thriving economy and strong nation.

Investments in prevention support healthy child development and lower the number of children affected by abuse and neglect, and the financial cost to our nation in turn. Child abuse and neglect affects over 1 million children every year. Child abuse and neglect costs our nation $220 million every day. How? For investigations. For foster care. Medical and mental health treatment. And later for special education, juvenile and adult crime, chronic health problems, and other costs across the life span. We will pay a staggering $80 BILLION to address child abuse and neglect in 2012. Child abuse and neglect affect us all.

But fortunately, child abuse and neglect are preventable. The report below from Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D. and Staci Perlman Ph.D. details the terrible costs of child abuse and neglect. Our hope is to awaken the nation to the change we can make. Together we can prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation’s children.

We are grateful to the Macy’s Foundation for their generous funding to help make this report possible. Read below for an excerpt from the report, or download the entire report using the buttons on the right.

The Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect

Incidence of Child Maltreatment: The calculation of cost estimates of child maltreatment is based on the most recent estimate of the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States. The Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (Sedlak et al., 2010) employed the same “harm standard” definition as was used in the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). An estimated 1,256,600 children were victims of child maltreatment in the study years 2005-2006.

Costs: Our initial calculation of the 2012 costs of child maltreatment used the same direct and indirect cost categories as those used by Wang and Holton (2007)d . The total direct and indirect cost of child maltreatment is $78,405,740,013. Adding in two new categories of costs— indirect costs of early intervention ($247,804,537) and emergency/transitional housing ($1,606,866,538) increases the total costs to $80,260,411,087.

In conclusion, the decline in the number of recognized and reported victims of child abuse and neglect by nearly 300,000 children means that, even after accounting for inflation, there is a lower overall cost of child abuse and neglect. As noted earlier, while we cannot compare the current calculations to earlier estimates, one validity check of our cost estimate is the fact that as child abuse and neglect numbers declined in the last decade, so did the incidence of juvenile delinquency and adult crime. Thus, we believe our estimate of the decrease in the indirect cost of child abuse and neglect is accurate.

Child abuse and neglect, even with the decline in number of victims, still exacts a brutal and costly toll on the victims. The cost to society, while apparently lower than a decade ago, is still significant. Only a reduction in the occurrence of child maltreatment abates the cost to our children and our nation.

Download a PDF copy of the report to continue reading about the direct and indirect costs of child abuse and neglect.

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