Data About Child Abuse And Neglect

Because there is no one way to collect information about child neglect and abuse, coming to an agreement about the “actual” rates is difficult, almost impossible. In addition to looking at the many ways of collecting data based on reported cases, surveys of the general population reveals that although some adults suffered from child abuse or neglect as children or youth – they never told anyone. This tells us that even with the most accurate numbers from reported cases – the data will always be less than the actual number of children experiencing abuse or neglect.

Despite these challenges – including reported rates that are lower than actual rates – a great deal of trustworthy information does exist. Some studies report annual rates of abuse and neglect and others report over longer periods of time. Some reports reflect only those cases officially reported to child welfare agencies and law enforcement, others use different methods and collect other data to try and tally both reported and unreported incidents of neglect and/or abuse.

According to the federally funded Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (2010), three times as many children are maltreated as are reported to Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies. This statistic has remained consistent over the 18 years that these studies have occurred. The clear evidence that only one in three children who suffer from significant neglect or abuse are ever involved with the child welfare system has clear implications for measurement of prevention efforts across any jurisdiction, including Lane County.

90by30 is working to better understand Lane County rates and trends so that we can use this information for planning purposes, and in order to accurately measure changes in rates over time. Good information will help us to know who is more at-risk for child abuse in Lane County, how to accurately talk about it, and where to most effectively direct our community strategies.

An example of Lane County data that is not from reports to child protective services but is also easy to track and a real indicator of the scope of the problem we are working to address is the annual number of children in Lane County who spend time in the foster care system. For example, in 2011, 1,703 Lane County kids spent at least one day in foster care.

Highlights from the Oregon Child Welfare Data Book (ODHS, 2011) and the Oregon Women’s Health and Safety Survey (OWHSS, 2004) give a statewide view of the issue:

  1. Reports of child abuse and neglect are on the rise in Oregon:
    In 2000, Oregon Child Welfare received 40,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. In 2011, this number rose to 74,342 reports of child abuse and neglect.
  2. Child neglect is the most common form of child abuse:
    According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, in 2010 among all acts of child abuse and neglect reported in the US, 78.3% were ‘acts of omission’ (child neglect), 17.6% were physical abuse, and less than 10 percent (9.2%) were sexual abuse. Oregon includes ‘threat of harm’ as one of its categories when a report is filed. In fact, ‘threat of harm’ is the most common report made in Oregon (51%), followed by neglect (34.5%), physical abuse (6.8%) and sexual abuse (6.3%).
  3. Child abuse and neglect usually first happens very early in a child’s life*:
    In Oregon and across the U.S., very young children are most at-risk for abuse and neglect. In Oregon in 2011, 48.3 percent of confirmed* child victims were younger than 6 years old.

    *Note: These numbers are somewhat misleading as they reflect reports that were investigated and then ‘founded’ to have merit by child welfare investigators. It is the policy of child welfare agencies to use their limited resources primarily to investigate reports relating to very young children, because they are the most vulnerable. By not investigating anywhere near the same percentage of reports relating to adolescents, these numbers may be somewhat skewed..

  4. Child abuse and neglect most often happens in the privacy of our homes:
    Among “confirmed” (or “founded”) incidents of abuse and neglect in Oregon in 2011, family members, such as mother, father, or live-in companion, were responsible for 93.8% of the reported acts of abuse and neglect. Mothers account for 44.1% of reports and fathers for 38.1%.

    Note: These rates do not generally include children who witness or hear intimate partner violence (domestic violence). Most acts of severe intimate partner violence are men being abusive to women.

  5. Child abuse and neglect happens across all racial groups in Oregon. In 2011, 60.2% of reported child victims were Caucasian, 16.9% were Hispanic, and 5.1% were African American.
  6. Child abuse and neglect includes witnessing violence in the home. In the 5-year period before the Oregon Women’s Health and Safety Survey, 26,910 children directly witnessed a physical assault and 1,178 witnessed a sexual assault against a mother or adult female caregiver (OWHSS, 2004).
  7. Our children often feel like they have no one to talk to when abuse and neglect is happening to them or near them in their homes.
    In 2010, 351 Eugene and Springfield residents who were abused as children were randomly telephoned and asked: “During the period of time when you first experienced any of the abuse or violence just mentioned, how often did anyone try to help or protect you?’ Their response options were never, rarely, sometimes and often.
    They responded:

  8. There are several factors that are often a part of households where children are reported as abused and/or neglected in Oregon.
    In 2011, they included

    • Alcohol and drug problems (46.8% of households)
    • Domestic violence (35.2% of households)
    • Parent involvement with law enforcement (26.4% of households)

Lane County Child Abuse & Neglect Statistics

In Lane County in 2011, there were 2,768 allegations of child abuse and neglect. Of those allegations, 710 were substantiated: 69 child physical abuse, 67 child sexual abuse and exploitation, 520 child neglect substantiations. This doesn’t mean that all the other reported cases did not include some level of neglect or abuse – it simply means that the investigators found no evidence to substantiate the claim.

Family Risk Factors for Child Abuse & Neglect

In the 2011 reported cases in Lane County, when child abuse and neglect was present, drug/alcohol issues represented the largest family stress factor at 46.8%. Domestic violence was the second most common factor at 35.2%, followed by involvement with law enforcement at 26.4%.