April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize that we each play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in our community.
Child abuse and neglect are preventable, yet each year in the United States, close to one million children are confirmed victims of child maltreatment. An extensive body of research provides promising and best practices on what works to improve child safety and well-being outcomes and reduce the occurrence of child abuse and neglect. These efforts are essential as child abuse and neglect have pervasive and long-lasting effects on children, their families, and the society.
We must understand that the impact of child maltreatment can be profound. Adverse consequences for children's development often are evident immediately, encompassing multiple domains including physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. For many children, these effects extend far beyond childhood into adolescence and adulthood, potentially compromising the lifetime productivity of maltreatment victims. In addition to the impact on the child, child abuse and neglect affect various systems - including physical and mental heath, law enforcement, judicial and public social services, and nonprofit agencies as they respond to the incident and support the victims.
The costs of responding to the impact of child abuse and neglect are borne by the
victims and their families but also by society. An analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect suggests that child maltreatment costs the nation as much as $258 million each day, or approximately $94 billion each year.
Although the economic costs associated with child abuse and neglect are substantial, it is essential to recognize that it is impossible to calculate the impact of the pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life that victims of child abuse and neglect experience. These "intangible losses", though difficult to quantify in monetary terms, are real and should not be overlooked. Intangible losses, in fact, may represent the largest cost component of violence against children and should be taken into account when allocating resources.
Prevention is our best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community.
Over the course of the next few weeks we will publish stories exposing the various factors that lead to violence against children; offer tips to parents and caregivers; and give a voice to those who's lives have been forever changed by child abuse.