Child-Abuse Rates Remain Unchanged; Number of Fatal Cases Increases
Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Child-maltreatment rates in the United States remained stable in 2003, with a little more than 900,000 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect, federal data show.
However, the number of child fatalities caused by maltreatment rose to 1,500 - the fourth consecutive year that figure has increased - raising concerns about whether these numbers reflect more deaths because of abuse or neglect or more accurate reporting of these incidents.
More medical professionals might be classifying a child's death as maltreatment, said Richard Wertheimer, vice president of Child Trends, a research group that tracks data on child well-being.
Both media and medical groups have been raising awareness about child abuse for years, he said. As a result, a doctor might write "child maltreatment" instead of "head trauma" as the cause of death.
It also may be that "you're looking at more stressors in people's lives - and simply more incidents where there is abuse and neglect that results in the death of a child," said Shay Bilchik, president and chief executive of Child Welfare League of America.
Fifteen hundred deaths "really is a startling number," he said. It points to the need for more effective child welfare responses as well as more prevention programs that can work with families at risk for abuse.
The "2003 Child Maltreatment" report is based on data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, which is operated by the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. …