While the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect ticked back up in 2021, the number of confirmed victims reached a record low, according to new federal data released today.
The federal Child Maltreatment 2021 report identifies 600,000 victims, which the agency described in a press release as “the lowest number of children identified as victims of maltreatment in the last five years.”
By Youth Services Insider’s read of the historical data, it is actually the lowest total in nearly three decades. Based on our review of Child Maltreatment reports going back to 1993, the number of abuse and neglect victims has typically been more than 700,000, and never dropped below 670,000 before 2019.
“This is the right direction, but there is still much work to be done,” said January Contreras, who leads the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services. “ACF will continue to collaborate with our state and community partners to ensure children are safe and to support families to prevent crisis situations when possible.”
The number of victims who were physically abused dropped 8% from 2020 and has declined by 18% over a two-year period. The number of victims experiencing sexual abuse increased by 2% in 2021, and victims of general neglect declined by 5%.
The number of reports of maltreatment declined 10% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, as did the number of those reports that were screened in for investigations or alternative response services. The number of reports increased slightly in 2021 — up 2% from 3,930,000 to 3,980,000 — though the number of those reports that were screened in declined again last year, this time by nearly 4%.
The estimated number of children who died from abuse and neglect in 2021 was 1,820, a 3% increase from 2020 and roughly even with the 2019 total.
The maltreatment data lands a few months after another federal report showed the number of youth in foster care had declined for a third straight year in 2021, down to 391,098 youth. It is the first time that less than 400,000 youth were in foster care according to the federal data since 2012.
The Imprint’s state-by-state data collection for 2022, which asks states to provide a point-in-time count of foster youth, suggests that the number of youth in foster care declined again last year. With responses from 49 states, The Imprint estimates that 381,176 youth were in foster care as of March 31, 2022.
Youth Services Insider will update this post with anything else that jumps out as we read deeper into the report, but here are the recent trend lines on some of the major data points:
Allegations of Abuse and Neglect
Child Victims of Abuse and Neglect
Child Abuse/Neglect Fatalities