Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have an Accurate Count of Child-Abuse Deaths?

Last week, The New Yorker published a story about state to state variations in accurately and consistently documenting child-abuse related deaths. Although the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System estimated 1,720 children in the United States died due to abuse and neglect in 2017, the journalist documents numerous reasons this number should be questioned. Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Principal Investigator at the Children’s Data Network, was quoted saying “The numbers could easily be three times or four times higher than what’s reported.” In California, we know that at least 1,469 children have died from maltreatment between 2008 and 2018. Putnam-Hornstein goes on to explain, “The death itself may be a rare occurrence, but the circumstances around it are usually far from rare. We can look at those circumstances to see what went wrong and learn how child-protection agencies can conduct better investigations and make better decisions.” Please visit our project page, Population-based, Birth Cohort Studies of Child Deaths Before Age 5, for a summary our work related to child fatalities.


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