Child Maltreatment Exacts Huge Cost

By Worthington, Karen | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, February 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Child Maltreatment Exacts Huge Cost


Worthington, Karen, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report quantifying the costs of child maltreatment in the United States. That report underscores that child maltreatment is a serious public health issue with financial impacts comparable to a stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

What the report does not quantify is the loss of a child's innocence. What is the price of the smile on a baby's face when he takes his first steps, or on the 8-year-old who scores her first goal, or on the 12-year-old who wins his class spelling bee? What about the joy and love brought into the lives of family and friends by that child? And what about the loss to all who might have been helped because the abused toddler may have grown up to cure cancer or end child abuse?

Actuarial calculations are useful for placing child maltreatment in the context of other public health and public safety concerns. They serve as a proxy for the lives of children in policy and budget decisions. When the final budget is passed at the end of this legislative session, how will child maltreatment compare with other priorities?

The CDC study examined confirmed new cases of child abuse and neglect in 2008 and estimated that the total lifetime cost for fatal and nonfatal abuse that occurred in 2008 was at least $124 billion. In addition to medical expenses for the life of the child victim, the calculated costs included expenses of the child welfare, criminal justice and special education systems, as well as productivity losses during the lives of victims. The study's many limitations caused the estimated costs to be quite conservative. Knowing that the incidence of child maltreatment is much greater than the number of confirmed cases, the study says that the actual cost is closer to $585 billion instead of $124 billion.

In 2008, approximately 1,800 Hawaii children were confirmed victims of child maltreatment. …

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