Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect affect more than just the child and family involved. Several studies show child maltreatment affects us all, through a variety of ways including crime in our communities, increased medical and juvenile and adult justice costs to us all, and loss of worker productivity, among others.  

CDC Cost Study

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February 2012 estimates the total lifetime costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect) are approximately $124 billion.

The estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment includes childhood healthcare costs, adult medical costs, loss of productivity, child welfare costs, criminal justice costs and special education costs. The estimated average lifetime cost per victim of fatal child maltreatment includes medical costs and loss of productivity costs.

This study uses an incidence-based approach to collecting data. This approach estimates the lifetime costs for all victims of child abuse and neglect for the current year. This is a fundamentally different approach from the study commissioned by Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), where they estimate the costs for all current and previous victims for a single year. Because of this difference, the total costs estimated in the two reports are not comparable; however, each is useful when used in the correct context.

Prevent Child Abuse America Cost Study

An economic analysis released by Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) in May 2012 estimated the annual nationwide cost of child abuse and neglect at $80,260,411,087 (2012 dollars).

These costs include the direct, short-term costs of immediate medical attention, mental health services, the child welfare system, and law enforcement required to address child abuse and neglect each year. The indirect, long-term costs include special education, early intervention, emergency housing, long-term mental health care, long-term physical health care, juvenile delinquency, the adult criminal justice system, and lost worker productivity costs related to children and adults who have been abused.

The report estimates North Carolina's annual share is $2,057,467,000 in 2012 dollars.

This study uses a prevalence-based approach to collecting data. This approach estimates costs for all current and previous victims of child abuse and neglect for a single year. This is a fundamentally different approach from the study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), where they estimate the lifetime costs for all victims identified in the current year. Because of this difference, the total costs estimated in the two reports are not comparable; however, each is useful when used in the correct context.

The report is authored by Dr. Richard Gelles of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Staci Perlman from Kutztown University. Dr. Gelles is an internationally known expert in domestic violence and child welfare. The project was made possible because of support from Macy's, Inc.

View the full report here

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Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

A chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America

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