Voices’ Blog

New Child Abuse and Neglect Data

Posted:  -  By: Lauren Snellings

parent and child holding hands

The Voices for Virginia’s Children KIDS COUNT Data Center is constantly updating and adding new indicators. Did you know that we track child abuse and neglect data from the Department of Social Services for both Virginia and its localities? We track both the number of children and cases who were involved in family assessments and founded investigations. When a case of suspected child abuse or neglect is reported, the local Department of Social Services decides whether to conduct a family assessment or an investigation.  Investigations are either founded or unfounded. A single child could be the victim of multiple founded investigations or an investigation could include multiple children, which is why we request completed reports and the number of children in those reports. Also new this year is the ability to look at child abuse and neglect numbers by subgroups, including age, race, and gender.

Some highlights:

  • There were just shy of 39,000 children who were a part of a family assessment within 24,684 completed reports in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2020 [7/1/2019 – 6/30/2020]. This was a 9 percent decrease in children and an 8 percent decrease in reports from SFY 2019 (children: 42, 943; reports: 26,902).
  • There were 5,792 children and 3,789 completed reports who were a part of a founded investigation of child abuse and neglect in SFY 2020. This is a 10 percent decrease for both children and completed reports from SYF 2019 (children: 6,413; completed reports: 4,211).
  • There are a large number of unknown ages collected for both family assessments and founded cases [family assessments: 905 ; founded investigations: 194].
  • Gender breakdowns were very similar across family assessments (male: 51 percent ; female 49 percent) and founded investigations (male: 47.9 percent; female: 52.1 percent).
  • Race/ ethnicity were not collected in mutually exclusive categories. Out of the total number of children in both founded and family assessments, almost 70 percent identified as White (founded: 69.6 percent; family assessment: 68.1 percent), one third identified as Black (founded: 31.1 percent; family assessment: 29.7 percent) and 10 percent identified as Hispanic ethnicity (founded: 11.9 percent; family assessment: 10.5 percent).

It is still unclear what role the pandemic has played in these numbers and whether these decreases in both children and completed reports in SFY 2020 are due to a true decline in cases, a drop in reporting, or perhaps even administrative impacts  and capacity to local social services agencies. The policy team will continue to collect anecdotal evidence within their networks of service organizations, departments, and impacted communities to give voice to this data and help us connect the dots.

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