Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of children are victims of child abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment, abuse and neglect are generally defined as actions or omissions of a parent or caregiver that result in serious harm to a child. Abuse can be emotional, physical or sexual, and neglect can encompass emotional, physical, medical or educational neglect. One in seven children has been the victim of abuse or neglect within the past year.
Experiencing child maltreatment has immediate effects on health and well-being as well as long-term consequences. Children who are victims of maltreatment are more likely to experience poor health into adulthood including substance abuse, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. Due to the prevalence of child abuse and neglect and the array of potential lifelong health effects, the associated financial costs are high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the lifetime cost of child abuse and neglect is 124 billion dollars annually, and, according to a recent study, substantiated cases of child maltreatment in 2015 alone will cost the United States a total of 428 billion dollars.
States have adopted strategies to prevent child maltreatment before it occurs, such as connecting new parents to community support opportunities, enabling access to high quality child care and coordinating funding. For example, at least 24 states have enacted legislation related to early childhood home visiting programs, one of the effective strategies to support new parents and help prevent child maltreatment.
To view current state actions related to child maltreatment prevention and other injury and violence prevention topics, please visit NCSL's Injury and Violence Prevention Legislation Database. Return to the injury and violence prevention overview page to learn about other topics and additional resources.