Think you know about child abuse statistics? Think again.

Annually, the Iowa Department of Human Services provides child abuse data. In 2017, 33,418 reports of child abuse were made in Iowa, of which 7,136 family assessments involving multiple children were completed. 26,282 child abuse assessments were completed involving one child. Of those child abuse reports and assessments, 11,236 children were found to be abused. This is a 26% increase from the number of children abused in 2016. Of those 11,236 abused children, 47.4 percent were under the age of 5.

Child Abuse in Warren County

In 2017, there were 145 individual reports of child abuse with the number one form being neglect, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Child abuse data by category for Warren County:

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What is considered “child abuse”?

Child abuse is defined state-by-state, so there is no federal standard. In Iowa, the Legislature defines child abuse to include the following:

  • Failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for a child’s health and well being
  • Intended physical injury
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Presence of an illegal drug in a child’s body as a result of actions or neglect
  • Allowing a known sex offender, who is not the child’s biological parent or the caretaker’s spouse, custody or access to a child
  • Manufacturing a dangerous substance in a child’s presence
  • Mental injury to a child
  • Providing access to showing obscene material to a child
  • Sex trafficking

According to Iowa law, the harm of a child is considered “child abuse” when it’s caused by the actions or neglect of someone who is responsible for the child’s well-being. Individuals can be charged with child abuse if they are a:

  • Parent or guardian
  • Foster parent
  • Health care or residential treatment employee
  • Child care employee
  • Relative or anyone living with a child, who is responsible for his or her supervision

Societal Costs of Child Abuse

Those who are subject to child abuse face emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioral development challenges at higher rates than children who aren’t abused. Those who are abused are more likely to:

  • Perform poorly in school
  • Develop unhealthy relationships
  • Attempt suicide
  • Suffer from:
    • Attention deficits
    • Depression
    • Violent aggression
    • Obesity
    • Alcoholism
    • Drug usage
    • Tobacco addiction

For every $50 spent to treat child abuse, only $1 is spent to prevent it from occurring. Studies show investing in parental support and education is less expensive and more effective than trying to treat the effects of child abuse.  

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs)

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) conducted by Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vincent Felitti revealed these major societal costs that result from trauma. Iowa is one of 19 states taking action based on the ACEs study. ACEs data is being collected this year and a steering committee is looking at how to use the data to best address childhood difficulties in the state.

The monetary costs associated with child abuse are staggering as well. An economic impact analysis study released by Prevent Child Abuse America in April 2012 estimates the cost of child abuse and neglect in the U.S. at $80 billion, or nearly $64,000 per child, this year. These estimates include direct costs (hospitalizations, mental health treatment, child welfare system, and law enforcement) as well as indirect costs (special education, early intervention, adult homelessness, mental health and health care, juvenile and adult criminal justice, and lost work productivity).

What is clear from these studies is that child abuse affects everyone. Programs are available to help provide education, resources and connections to individuals interested in helping eliminate child abuse. We can significantly reduce the costs associated with treating child abuse by investing in these programs. To help prevent child abuse from happening, it will take everyone working together to support Iowa’s families.

Warren County Child Abuse Prevention offers training to individuals interested in learning how to prevent child abuse. Find out how you can help by visiting Child Abuse Prevention Council of Warren County


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