Maltreatment Statistics

This information was taken directly from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau


All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories have child abuse and neglect reporting laws that mandate certain professionals and institutions to report suspected maltreatment to a child protective services (CPS) agency.

Each State has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that are based on standards set by federal law. Federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C. §5101), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, retained the existing definition of child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they can occur in combination.

What is the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)?

NCANDS is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. The 1988 CAPTA amendments directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a national data collection and analysis program. The Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, collects and analyzes the data.

The data are submitted voluntarily by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The first report from NCANDS was based on data for 1990. This report for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2012 data is the 23rd issuance of this annual publication.

How are the data used?

NCANDS data are used for the Child Maltreatment report. In addition, data collected by NCANDS are a critical source of information for many publications, reports, and activities of the federal government and other groups. Data from NCANDS are used in the Child and Family Services Reviews, in the Child Welfare Outcomes: Report to Congress, and to measure the performance of several federal programs.

What data are collected?

Once an allegation (called a referral) of abuse and neglect is received by a CPS agency, it is either screened in for further attention by CPS or it is screened out. A screened-in referral is called a report. CPS agencies respond to all reports. In most states, the majority of reports receive investigations, which determines if a child was maltreated or is at-risk of maltreatment and establishes whether an intervention is needed. Some reports receive alternative responses, which focus primarily upon the needs of the family and do not determine if a child was maltreated or is at-risk of maltreatment.

NCANDS collects case-level data on all children who received a CPS agency response in the form of an investigation response or an alternative response. Case-level data include information about the characteristics of screened-in referrals (reports) of abuse and neglect that are made to CPS agencies, the children involved, the types of maltreatment they suffered, the dispositions of the CPS responses, the risk factors of the child and the caregivers, the services that are provided, and the perpetrators.

Where are the data available?

The Child Maltreatment reports are available on the Children’s Bureau website at If you have questions or require additional information about this report, please contact the Child Welfare Information Gateway at or 1–800–394–3366. Restricted use files of the NCANDS data are archived at the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) at Cornell University. Researchers who are interested in using these data for statistical analyses may contact NDACAN by phone at 607–255–7799 or by email at

How many allegations of maltreatment were reported and received an investigation or assessment for abuse and neglect?

During FFY 2012, CPS agencies received an estimated 3.4 million referrals involving approximately 6.3 million children. Among the 46 states that reported both screened-in and screened-out referrals, 62.0 percent of referrals were screened in and 38.0 percent were screened out.

For FFY 2012, 2.1 million reports were screened in, had a CPS response, and received a disposition. The national rate of reports that received a disposition was 28.3 per 1,000 children in the national population. An analysis of 5 years’ worth of data on reports that received a response and resulted in a disposition reveals a relatively stable number of reports, with a slight and gradual increase in the rate of these reports, owing in part to a decrease in the child population.

Who reported child maltreatment?

For 2012, professionals made three-fifths (58.7%) of reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. The term professional means that the person had contact with the alleged child maltreatment victim as part of his or her job. This term includes teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff. Nonprofessionals—including friends, neighbors, and relatives—submitted one-fifth of reports (18.0%). Unclassified sources submitted the remainder of reports (23.3%). Unclassified includes anonymous, “other,” and unknown report sources. States use the code “other” for any report source that does not have an NCANDS designated code.

The three largest percentages of report sources were from such professionals as legal and law enforcement personnel (16.7%), education personnel (16.6%) and social services personnel (11.1%).

Who were the child victims?

Fifty-one states submitted data to NCANDS about the dispositions of children who received one or more CPS responses. For FFY 2012, approximately 3.8 million (duplicate count) children were the subjects of at least one report. The duplicate count of child victims tallies a child each time he or she was found to be a victim. Approximately one-fifth of these children were found to be victims with dispositions of substantiated (17.7%), indicated (0.9%), and alternative response victim (0.5%). The remaining four-fifths of the children were determined to be nonvictims of maltreatment.

For FFY 2012, 51 states reported 678,810 (unique count) victims of child abuse and neglect. The unique count of child victims tallies a child only once regardless of the number of times he or she was found to be a victim during the reporting year. The unique victim rate was 9.2 victims per 1,000 children in the population. Using this rate, the national estimate of unique victims for FFY 2012 was 686,000. Victim demographics include:

Victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 21.9 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.

Boys accounted for 48.7 percent and girls accounted for 50.9 percent of victims. Fewer than 1.0 percent of victims were of unknown sex.

The majority of victims were comprised of three races or ethnicities—White (44.0%), Hispanic (21.8%), and African-American (21.0%).

What were the most common types of maltreatment?

As in prior years, the greatest percentage of children suffered from neglect. A child may have suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment and was counted once for each maltreatment type. CPS investigations or assessments determined that for unique victims:

more than 75 percent (78.3%) suffered neglect

more than 15 percent (18.3%) suffered physical abuse

fewer than 10 percent (9.3%) suffered sexual abuse

How many children died from abuse or neglect?

Child fatalities are the most tragic consequence of maltreatment. For FFY 2012, 49 states reported 1,593 fatalities. Based on these data, a nationally estimated 1,640 children died from abuse and neglect. Analyses were performed on the number of child fatalities for whom case-level data were obtained: The national rate of child fatalities was 2.20 deaths per 100,000 children.

Nearly three-quarters (70.3%) of all child fatalities were younger than 3 years old.

Boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls at 2.54 boys per 100,000 boys in the population. Girls died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 1.94 per 100,000 girls in the population.

Nearly 90 percent (85.5%) of child fatalities were comprised of White (38.3%), African-American (31.9%), and Hispanic (15.3%) victims.

Four-fifths (80.0%) of child fatalities were caused by one or both parents.

Who abused and neglected children?

A perpetrator is the person who is responsible for the abuse or neglect of a child. Fifty states reported 512,040 unique perpetrators. The unique count tallies a perpetrator only once, regardless of the number of times the perpetrator is associated with maltreating a child. The following analyses were conducted using a unique count of perpetrators:

Four-fifths (82.2%) of perpetrators were between the ages of 18 and 44 years.

More than one-half (53.5%) of perpetrators were women, 45.3 percent of perpetrators were men, and 1.1 percent were of unknown sex.

Using a duplicated count of perpetrators, meaning a perpetrator is counted each time the same perpetrator is associated with maltreating a child, the total duplicated count of perpetrators was 893,659. For 2012:

Four-fifths (80.3%) of duplicated perpetrators were parents.

Of the duplicated perpetrators who were parents, 88.5 percent were the biological parents.

Who received services?

CPS agencies provide services to children and their families, both in their homes and in foster care. Reasons for the provision of services may include 1) preventing future instances of child maltreatment and 2) remedying conditions that brought the children and their family to the attention of the agency. During 2012, for the duplicate count of children:

Forty-five states reported approximately 3.2 million children received prevention services.

Based on data from 48 states, 1,192,635 children received postresponse services from a CPS agency.

Three-fifths (60.9%) of victims and 29.6% of nonvictims received postresponse services.

A one-page chart of key statistics from the annual report is provided on the following page.


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U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau

Child Maltreatment 2012 Summary (p. 11)