Feature

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005):

  • 906,000 U.S. children were confirmed by child protective service agencies as being maltreated—a number considered to be a vast underestimate. Among confirmed cases, 61 percent of children experienced neglect, 19 percent were physically abused, 10 percent were sexually abused, and 5 percent were emotionally or psychologically abused.

  • An estimated 1,500 children were confirmed to have died from maltreatment: 36 percent from neglect, 28 percent from physical abuse and 29 percent from multiple maltreatment types.

  • Shaken-baby syndrome affects 1,200 to 1,600 children every year. Between 25 percent and 30 percent of infant victims of shaken-baby syndrome die from their injuries.

The toll such abuse takes on children is immeasurable. The CDC says research has found that child victims of maltreatment are at increased risk for adverse health effects and behaviors as adults, including smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, severe obesity, depression, suicide, sexual promiscuity and certain chronic diseases. Maltreatment during infancy or early childhood can cause important regions of the brain to form improperly, leading to physical, mental and emotional problems such as sleep disturbances, panic disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The direct costs of treatment—including judicial, law enforcement and health system responses to child maltreatment—are estimated at $24 billion each year. Indirect costs—long-term economic consequences of child maltreatment—exceed an estimated $69 billion annually.