Community News
Government Plans Strategy To Prevent Child Abuse
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 10 page 18-18

Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., is assembling experts from medicine, criminal justice, child welfare, and education to develop a national strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Carmona described the new initiative at an April press briefing in Washington, D.C., held in conjunction with Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Carmona and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson presented new data from the "Child Maltreatment 2002" report issued by the federal Administration of Children and Families (ACF) in April.

The data are collected annually and analyzed by the HHS National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, a federally sponsored effort that includes all cases that are investigated or assessed by a Child Protective Services agency. The data are voluntarily submitted by the states and the District of Columbia.

There were nearly 896,000 substantiated cases of child maltreatment in the United States in 2002, the most recent year for reported data. The most common type of maltreatment involved neglect, which is "the failure to provide needed, age-appropriate care," according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect System used by the ACF. Various forms of child abuse were also substantiated in many cases, with the most common being physical abuse followed by sexual abuse and emotional or psychological abuse, according to the report.

In 2002, 1,400 children died from abuse or neglect in the United States, which is a rate of 1.98 per 100,000 children in the general population, according to the report.

The rate of child abuse and neglect in 2002 was 12.3 for every 1,000 children, which is about 20 percent less than the rate in 1993, when reported maltreatment peaked at an estimated 15.3 out of every 1,000 children, according to Thompson.

Toddlers and infants were victimized more often than older children. Among children under the age of 1, boys were victimized more frequently than girls.

The individual and societal consequences of child maltreatment can be severe, said Carmona. They include physical injury or death, chronic health conditions, broken families, emotional devastation, and increased health costs, he said.

"The fact that children in America still suffer and die at the hands of abusers compels us to be aggressive in developing ways to prevent abuse from occurring and stop it early if it does occur," Carmona emphasized.

Studies have found a strong link between domestic violence and child abuse. Carmona cited the Safe and Bright Futures for Children Initiative headed by Assistant Secretary for Health Christine Beato, M.D. The program focuses on preventing the immediate and long-term consequences of domestic violence.

The surgeon general’s press release is posted online at www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/speeches/childmaltreat04012004.htm. "Child Maltreatment 2002" is posted at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cm02/index.htm.

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