Child Maltreatment in US Costs $124 Billion Over a Lifetime

I am wondering if anyone else had to read this information on the cost of child maltreatment twice, and perhaps for the same reasons that required me to re-read it. When I first heard about this study, conducted by Fang et al in 2012 and published in the Child Abuse and Neglect Journal, I don’t know that I was able to fully absorb the staggering numbers it contained. I saw the information and thought it was compelling but then quickly moved on to the next item of concern. It was only when I re-read it and gave myself the space/time to truly think about and absorb it that perhaps I could fully appreciate its impact.

Perhaps you are willing to give yourself the same opportunity or perhaps you are reading it for the first time – either way, here are the highlights that deserve full absorption:

  • The estimated cost to all of us Americans for one year of child maltreatment is $124,000,000,000 (billion – sometimes it helps to see all the zeros). Put more simply, for every child who was maltreated or killed by maltreatment in 2008, the careful analysis done of the impact of lost productivity, health care costs, etc. will be $124,000,000,000 over the course of each victim’s lifetime. That number is remarkable enough, but a careful read of the study suggests that it is a conservative conclusion and that it is possible the cost could be $585,000,000,000.
  • The cost calculations are based on a very extensive review of available information on how maltreatment can impact health care needs, medical costs as an adult, lost workplace productivity, child welfare costs, criminal justice costs, and special education costs. The simple fact that experiencing maltreatment can have an impact that diverse and significant is salient on its own.
  • There is a growing list of programs that are showing good results in terms of making an impact – many of which have core themes of encouraging optimal child development through positive parenting, teaching people about the impact of maltreatment and the interventions that can make a difference, and encouraging communities to be proactive in preventing maltreatment before it happens.

When you combine the information from the article (detailing the broad prevalence and impact of child maltreatment) with the lessons we and many others across the country are learning in initiatives labeled “trauma informed care” (that child maltreatment can be successfully addressed and prevented) suggests that our individual and collective choice to not prioritize it is a conscious one. That, too, deserves full absorption.

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