Focus on the Figures: Reasons for Removal from Home

Every other week, The Imprint features one key indicator from, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well-being of children across California.

There are many different specific reasons for the removal of a child from his or her parents. But their are three general types of maltreatment measured by child welfare agencies: general neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while the death rate among physically abused children is substantially higher than that of neglected children, neglected children are more likely to die of an unintentional injury than children who have been physically abused.

This chart breaks down the reason for a child’s first removal into care, in California, for the period 2010 to 2012.


In addition to being the most common type of child maltreatment in California and nationwide, general neglect is the most common reason for placement into foster care. General neglect occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver fails to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurs.

In 2010-12, 81 percent of children entering foster care for the first time in California were removed from their families due to neglect, compared to 10 percent due to physical abuse and 3 percent due to sexual abuse.

There are not national statistics on the reason for first removal, but federally collected data suggests that about 78 percent of victims suffered from neglect.

Another indicator tracked by KidsData – Substantiation of Maltreatment, by Type – suggests that most of the nature of the neglect in most removals was not “severe.” Only 3.5 percent of the neglect involved in substantiated maltreatment met that threshold, which according to federal guidelines “occurs when severe or long-term harm has been done to the child.”

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint

Your support allows The Imprint to provide independent, nonpartisan daily news covering the issues faced by vulnerable children and families.

Subscribe or Donate

Legislative leaders in California have produced an initial plan to achieve Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for the closure of the state's Department of #JuvenileJustice, which once housed more than 10,000 youth and young adults and now holds fewer than 1,000.