Podcast Episodes

Episode 22 – America’s Child Abuse Pandemic

Episode Summary

This week, Kelley takes on hosting this episode solo, while Julia takes a couple of much needed weeks to recoup from work. Kelley shares her research on where the United States currently stands statistically in regards to child abuse and child mortality. Not only does she discuss the immediate costs of child abuse for society, but the study on the long term results of it on more than just the individual. 

Also Discussed in this Episode

Why the U.S. so behind when it comes to improving our Child Mortality Rates and Abuse rates compared with other industrialized nations.

Why pro-lifers are not upset about the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border. 

Why pro-lifers are not enraged about the uterus collections taking place at the migrant detention center in GA. It’s no secret that pro-lifers only seem to care about white life. When they can “other” a group of people and view them as animals or less than human, they can be complacent about an issue they claim to stake their beliefs and political choices upon. 

According to a story on The Damage Report, a recent report has been released that in the effort to identify migrant families separated by the Trump administration, reveals that they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children, and about 2/3rds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children.

How the U.S. Compares to Other Countries

 Let’s dive into where the United States lands compared to other countries in relation to child abuse and protection. 

We keep talking about children’s rights here in the states being outdated and flimsy. I decided to do some research and figure out why this is. I found some interesting search results that I think might help you understand the current state of affairs. 

But first: According to Child Abuse Statistics

“Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children)”.

“The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect”.

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds”.

“Yearly, referrals to state child protective services involve 6.6 million children, and around 3.2 million of those children are subject to an investigated report”.

“In 2014 alone, state agencies found over 702,000 victims of child maltreatment, but that only tells part of the story”.

This would pack 10 modern football stadiums“.

See More Stats From Child Help

Child Maltreatment Statistics in the U.S.

Below is data and research found on the American Society for the Positive Care of Children website “

“As the Nation’s Voice for Children, American SPCC is speaking up and standing up against Child Abuse. The following free educational resources are made possible through your support and contributions. Please consider MAKING A DONATION to keep this program going.

National Child Abuse Statistics

  • 4.3 million child maltreatment referral reports received.1
  • Child abuse reports involved 7.8 million children.1
  • 91.7% of victims are maltreated by one or both parents.1
  • Only 3.3 million children received prevention & post-response services.1
  • 146,706 children received foster care services.1
  • 411,969 victims (60.8%) are neglected.1
  • 72,814 victims (10.7%) are physically abused.1
  • 47,124 victims (7%) are sexually abused.1
  • 15,605 victims (2.3%) are psychologically maltreated.1
  • Highest rate of child abuse in children under age one (26.7 per 1,000).1
  • Annual estimate: 1,770 children died from abuse and neglect in 2018.1,
  • Almost five children die every day from child abuse.1,2
  • Seventy-one (70.6%) percent of all child fatalities were younger than 3 years old.1
  • 80.3% of child fatalities involve at least one parent.1
  • Of the children who died, 72.8% suffered neglect.1
  • Of the children who died, 46.1% suffered physical abuse either exclusively or in combination with another maltreatment type.1 
  • 46.6% of children who die from child abuse are under one year.1
  • Boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls (2.87 boys & 2.19 girls per 100,000)1
  • Almost 65,000 children are sexually abused.1
  • 2018 is the first year for which states are reporting the new maltreatment type of sex trafficking. For 2018, 27 states report 741 unique victims of sex trafficking.1
  • For victims of the sex trafficking maltreatment type, the majority (89.1%) are female and 10.4 percent are male.1
  • Estimated that between 50-60% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates.5
  • Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups.1

Who abused and neglected children? 

  • 83.3% (More than four-fifths) of perpetrators were between the ages of 18 and 44 years.1
  • 53.8% (More than one-half) of perpetrators were women, 45.3 % of perpetrators were men, and .09% are of unknown sex.1


  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.6
  • Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking behaviors, putting them at greater risk for STDs.6
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.7
  • In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.13
  • The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is estimated at $585 billion.8


Drug/alcohol abuse by parents and caregivers has an effect on children, often resulting in neglect of the children and threatened abuse.

Drug abuse is non-discriminate, affecting all socioeconomic groups and people from all walks of life. Tolerance and dependency on drugs can develop quickly, without the user even realizing that addiction is taking hold. The pattern of abuse and addiction can be extremely difficult to stop.

  • Alcohol abuse (parent/caregiver)—the compulsive use of alcohol that is not of a temporary nature.1
  • Drug abuse (parent/caregiver)—the compulsive use of drugs that is not of a temporary nature.1
  • Domestic violence (parent/caregiver)–abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another.1

When you recognize that someone has a problem, it’s essential to seek help right away.


  • 1/3 to 2/3 of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.11
  • In one study, children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs were three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.11
  • Two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse report being abused or neglected as children.9
  • More than a third of adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect will have a substance use disorder before their 18th birthday, three times as likely as those without a report of abuse or neglect.14
  • 11.5% of children have a parent/caregiver alcohol abuse risk factor.1
  • 28.5% of children have a parent/caregiver drug abuse risk factor.1
  • 25.0% – 33.2% of children have a domestic violence abuse risk factor.1


Parental opioid and other substance abuse can have a devastating impact on children. The early trauma exposure makes children more likely to suffer mental health disorders including substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder later on in their lives. Children are often the hidden victims of our nation’s opioid epidemic.

A 2015 study from the National Institutes of Health found children exposed to opiates during pregnancy suffer from behavior and attention problems. Such children require therapy and often, specially licensed and trained foster families. States have indicated that they are struggling to recruit qualified foster families to home children with behavioral and attention issues.

The increase in the number of children in foster care occurs at the same time as the increase in the percentage of children entering foster care due to parental substance abuse. Anecdotal evidence and expert opinion link this increase to the parallel rise in parental opioid addiction and overdoses. One-third of children entering foster care in 2016 were due at least in part to parental drug abuse—an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2005.

Neglect, the finding in 61 percent of child maltreatment cases and the leading reason for foster care entry, is also often a result of substance abuse.


  • 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population. 8
  • Children who experience child abuse & neglect are approximately 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Abusive Mothers and Fathers

This exerpt from the article U.S. Worst in Child Abuse was written by Ben Radford for Seeker and discusses a major factor behind why our abuse and mortality rates are not going down.

“So by some measures the epidemic of child abuse should be getting better, not worse. However Petit also points out that there are other important factors contributing to the problem. For one thing, other countries with far lower abuse rates – unlike the United States – have social policies that provide child care, universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave, and so on.

All these social problems should not obscure one ugly fact: In the final analysis it is not lack of child care, or poverty, or teen pregnancy that is killing America’s children. It is abusive mothers and fathers.

According to a report titled “Homicide Trends in the U.S.” issued by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all children under age five murdered between 1976 and 2005, about two-thirds of them were killed by their parents: 31 percent were killed by fathers and 29 percent were killed by mothers.

A 2003 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that at least 85 percent of North Carolina newborns who were killed or left to die were murdered by their mothers (usually through strangulation or drowning).

Many studies suggest that mothers abuse and kill their infants and children at a higher rate than fathers. (This is probably due to the fact that women and mothers are more often the caregivers, so they have more overall contact with children – both good and bad – and are therefore overrepresented in child abuse cases.)

According to Petit, as many as seven children die from abuse and neglect every day in America. If seven children were killed each day by strangers (or released sex offenders), the public would be outraged. Yet the public is largely unaware of (or indifferent to) parents who murder their children”.

More Findings from an Abstract Scholarly Article

Child Abuse‐related Deaths, Child Mortality (0–4 Years) and Income Inequality in the USA and Other Developed Nations 1989–91 v 2013–15: Speaking Truth to Power

Authors Colin PritchardRichard Williams,and Emily Rosenorn‐Lanng

First published: 08 January 2020

“The major concern for social work, namely child abuse‐related deaths (CARD), involves parental neglect. Societal neglect, when measured by child mortality rates (CMR), is considered by bodies such as UNICEF to be indicative of how a nation meets the needs of its children. This population‐based study analyses CARD and CMR for children aged from newborn to four years old between 1989–91 and 2013–15 to identify any relative child neglect in the USA and 20 other developed nations (ODN).

World Health Organization data were used for CARD, CMR and undetermined deaths (UnD), a possible source of unreported CARD, juxtaposed against World Bank income inequality data.

The USA had the highest number of CARD, the highest CMR and the worst income inequality. Five countries reduced their CARD significantly more than the USA, and 14 countries reduced their CMR more than the USA. Income inequality and CMR were correlated.

Had the USA matched the CMR of Japan, where income inequality was narrowest, there would have been on average 16 745 fewer child deaths annually.

CARD and UnD correlated, suggesting that UnD may contain unreported CARD. US CMR data indicate that services in the USA are less effective than those in ODN, possibly due to income inequality. These results will be unwelcome but child protection services must dare to speak truth to power.

‘This population‐based study analyses CARD and CMR for children aged from newborn to four years old between 1989–91 and 2013–15 to identify any relative child neglect in the USA and 20 other developed nations”.

Every Child Matters

Accoring to the organization, Every Child Matters, “The United States leads the developed world in child-abuse deaths, according to the organization . More than 20,000 American children have died over the past decade in their own homes because of family members, with about 75% being under four years of age and nearly half being under one. The U.S. child-maltreatment death rate is three times higher than Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy.

The group attributes this unfortunate record to a number of factors, including the U.S.’s higher rates of teen pregnancy, dropping out of high school, violent crimes, imprisonment and poverty. In addition, Americans are less likely than citizens of other rich countries to have easy access to social services such as child care, parental leave and health insurance. Some observers also blame the well-intended, but often tragic emphasis in the United States on keeping families together even if a child may be in danger”.

By-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

America’s Child Abuse Epidemic

By Seema Jilani

“Four times more children have been killed this decade than US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their assailants? Their families.

A new BBC documentary has investigated why the US, one of the most prosperous nations on earth, has the worst child abuse record in the industrialised world. America’s child maltreatment death rate is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Over the past decade, more than 20,000 American children have been killed their own family members – that is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What differentiates us from other countries? The single best predictor of child abuse is poverty. Children raised in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused. Since the economic downturn, there has been a 30% increase in child maltreatment. The recession is, quite literally, a slap in the face of American children. The vast social programs available to low-income families in other countries are gapingly absent in the US. Social programs are also suffering funding cuts at the hands of Republicans, who persistently paint citizens in need of social programs as manipulative pariahs on the populace.

Since entering the bid for the 2012 presidential election, Gov. Rick Perry has boasted Texas’ pseudo-success, bedazzling voters with misleading statistics. His swagger is rooted in the fact that Texas is a low-tax, low-social service state. He neglects to mention that children from Texas are four times more likely to be incarcerated, four times more likely to be uninsured, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and nearly twice as likely to die from abuse and neglect. In order to perpetuate the façade of “traditional family values”, Child Protective Services in states with strong Republican leanings prefer to keep the faux family together, even in cases of flagrant abuse, instead of taking custody and removing children from their cruel environment. Nearly half of all Texan children killed by abuse belonged to families investigated by CPS, but the service’s myopic political masters would rather leave a child in the hands of a sadistic, torturous family than have a child raised by a gay couple in a safe and nurturing home.

Thus Texas has the lowest rate of removal for abused children from their homes. Not surprisingly, it also has the highest number of child abuse fatalities in the country.

Amid these dire circumstances, House Republicans passed an atrocious bill this month that would deeply impact pregnant women of lower socioeconomic status. Currently, hospitals receiving federal funds must provide emergency healthcare, including abortions, which can sometimes be life saving for the mother. The deceptively named Protect Life Act – which does anything but – would permit hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to perform an emergency abortion, even if a woman’s life was at stake. A vicious attack on the most basic right to life, HR 358 ambushes poor pregnant women into a bleak decision: either deliver an unwanted baby and raise the child in an unstable home, or have an unsafe abortion that could jeopardise your life. Will the GOP, our bastion of God-sanctioned moral righteousness, also be providing discounts on rusty coat hangers to further hasten the death of pregnant women?

In contrast, a new UN report released this week demonstrates that restrictions on abortions do not impede abortions; they only impede safe abortions and endanger women’s lives. The report also shows that that access to sex education and contraception are proven to reduce the need for abortions.

The GOP’s shrill moral indignation will force low-income mothers to have children who are born into poverty, rendering them at risk for abuse. Once the babies are born, however, Republicans abandon them in their most vulnerable moment by vehemently opposing social programs that would ameliorate their deplorable conditions. Love those fetuses unconditionally … until they take they take their first breath, when they magically transform into wretched, handout-seeking leeches on society. Abortion? A sinful abomination! Allowing a toddler to die because of lack of access to social programs? Man up, kid; God helps those who help themselves.

Inevitably, adoption is always the suggested panacea, but many children are just filtered through foster programs, which are themselves horrifically abusive. A 1986 survey conducted by the National Foster Care Education Project found that foster children were 10 times more likely to be abused than children among the general population. A follow-up study in 1990 by the same group produced similar results.

Republicans can cry “scary socialism” all they want. If that is what it takes to prevent blindness in a shaken baby, or anal tears in a seven-year-old resulting from knife sodomy, bring it on. Jonathan was an seven-year-old I treated whose relatives used to starve him, hang him from his shirt on the coatrack all night, dip his feet in boiling oil, and threaten to cut off his penis while holding a hot knife to his genitals. His caretakers had suffered similar abuse in their youth. Abused children are 74 times more likely to commit crimes against others and six times more likely to abuse their own children. This is why it is of paramount importance to offer therapy and rehabilitation to those from broken homes.

Ultimately, the blame of abuse always lies with the perpetrators who commit these heinous acts. But while those to the right of the aisle use melodramatic rhetoric to demonise social programs, studies have shown that preventive measures and therapeutic rehabilitation can, indeed, diminish the cycle of violence. Furthermore, women who are unable to provide a safe environment for children should be allowed to terminate their pregnancies safely, rather than risking their own lives and subjecting their children to a wretched existence full of misery and pain.

The narrative of healthcare reform and social programs must stop reflecting the agenda of morally bankrupt politicians whose eyes only fix on the next election. Propagandised myths need to be replaced with an empathic truth that reflects the needs of catastrophically shattered children who are struggling to survive and begging for our compassion.

• Details of patients, including names, have been changed to protect their identities”.

• Editor’s note: the figures originally given for problems with foster care, involving the prevalence of substance abuse among foster carers, may not have been reliable. So the article has been amended to give accurate information, at 6.30pm (ET; 11.30pm UK time) on 24 October.

UN Dispatch

The UN Dispatch reports that “The United Kingdom is the safest place to be a child, while Pakistan is the least safe. That’s according to a new index that ranks 40 countries on how well they’re responding to the threat of sexual abuse and exploitation against children.

According to the report called Out of the Shadows by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Childhood Foundation, the 40 countries in the index represent 70 percent of the world’s children.

The countries were ranked according to their environment in which child sexual violence occurs and is addressed, their legal framework to protect children, their government commitment and capacity to invest in appropriate responses as well as the engagement of industry, civil society and media in combating the issue”.

About Author

Kelley grew up as the fourth of six children in small town Hodgenville, Kentucky where she and her siblings were all homeschooled until graduation when she escaped off to college. Ever since she has been on a quest for learning and enlightenment. She is deeply passionate about politics, animals (particularly dogs and horses), art, film, fashion, and global issues.

1 Comment

  • Jill
    January 12, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    I am so grateful for your blog. Thanks Again. Great. Jill Locke Christen


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