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Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect Rival Other Major Public Health Problems

Serious looking little girlChild maltreatment is a serious and prevalent public health problem in the United States. In fiscal year 2008, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received more than 3 million reports of children being abused or neglected—or about 6 complaints per minute, every day. An estimated 772,000 children were classified by CPS authorities as being maltreated and 1,740 children aged 0 to 17 died from abuse and neglect in 2008.

The financial costs for victims and society are substantial. A recent CDC study, The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention, found the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion.

Published in Child Abuse and Neglect, The International Journal, the study looked at confirmed child maltreatment cases—1,740 fatal and 579,000 non-fatal—for a 12-month period. Findings show each death due to child maltreatment had a lifetime cost of about $1.3 million, almost all of it in money that the child would have earned over a lifetime if he or she had lived. The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is comparable to other costly health conditions such as stroke with a lifetime cost per person estimated at $159,846 or type 2 diabetes, which is estimated between $181,000 and $253,000.

Smiling group of kidsA promising array of prevention and response programs have great potential to reduce child maltreatment. Given the substantial economic burden of child maltreatment, the benefits of prevention will likely outweigh the costs for effective programs.

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