Child Abuse and Neglect

Source: Maryland Department Health Violence and Injury Prevention Guide. For the complete guide and references, visit their website.  ​


Child abuse and neglect (CAN) is any act of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g., clergy, coach, or teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Acts of omission (child neglect) is the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.



  • In 2014, 1,546 children ages 0-17 years died in the United States as a result of CAN; 79 percent were killed by one or both of their parents. Most (71%) of these victims were less than 3 years old.

  • In 2014, there were an estimated 3.2 million referrals screened in for investigation for CAN to Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies across the United States.

  • In 2014, 702,000 children were identified to be victims of CAN. Seventy-five percent of these children suffered from neglect; 17 percent were victims of physical abuse, and 8 percent were sexual abuse victims.

  • The lifetime estimated cost of new fatal and non-fatal CAN cases in 2008 was $124 billion. In 2010 dollars, the estimated average lifetime cost of CAN was $210,012 per non-fatal victim; this includes $32,648 in childhood health care costs; $10,530 in adult medical costs; $144,360 in productivity losses; $7,728 in child welfare costs; $6,747 in criminal justice costs; and $7,999 in special education costs. The estimated average lifetime cost per death is $1.3 million including $14,100 in medical costs and $1,258,800 in productivity losses.



  • In 2014, there were an estimated 31,469 referrals screened in for investigation for CAN to CPS in Maryland.

  • Of the reports that were screened in, there were an estimated 15,762 substantiated or indicated victims of CAN in Maryland, a rate of 11.7 per 1,000 children (0-17 year olds).

  • In that same year, 11 children died in Maryland as a result of CAN.

  • According to the Maryland State Council on Child Abuse & Neglect (SCCAN) 2013 Annual Report, CAN in Maryland is conservatively estimated to cost over $1.5 billion each year. 




  • In 2016, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released, “Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm, and Programmatic Activities.” A technical package is a collection of strategies that represent the best available evidence to prevent or reduce public health problems like violence. The package supports CDC’s Essentials for Childhood framework and highlights strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect.

  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau provides funding to states and tribes to help them strengthen families and prevent CAN.

  • The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare provides online access to information about evidence-based child welfare practices. The effectiveness of these practices is supported by empirical research.

  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway connects child welfare and related professionals to comprehensive information and resources to help protect children and strengthen families.