Child abuse, neglect cases down in U.S.


WASHINGTON (AP) – About 872,000 American children faced abuse or neglect in 2004, a statistic the government said shows improvement, but brought little cheer to child advocacy groups.

About 1,500 of those children died, according to the report released Tuesday.

The rate of abuse and neglect represents a slight improvement from the previous year. However, the death rate remained essentially the same.

The report – put out annually by the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families – found that overall, about 11.9 per 1,000 children were victimized. The rate marks the fourth consecutive year of declines.

The best rate over the past 15 years was in 1999 when the government found that 11.8 percent 1,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt responded to the report by stressing the lower neglect and abuse rates. “The news is encouraging for children, our most valuable resource, who are deserving of safe and stable homes,” he said. “As the rates of abuse and neglect drop nationwide, we must find solutions to continue this trend.”

The Children’s Defense Fund said the drop was so slight that it did not represent a clear trend. The organization said the report also indicated many children don’t get help even after a case of abuse or neglect is confirmed.

The report showed that only about 60 percent of confirmed victims get such help as family counseling, drug counseling or foster care.

“That’s really just a shame,” said JooYeun Chang, staff attorney with the Children’s Defense Fund. “There’s really a lack of services for children who do have confirmed cases of abuse or neglect.”

As in past years, the youngest children are the most vulnerable. About 16 percent of maltreatment cases involve children ages 3 and under.

The large majority of cases, about 62 percent, constitute neglect, which is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. About 17 percent of the cases involved physical abuse and about 10 percent involved sexual abuse.

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