EVERY year, the federal agency that tracks child welfare statistics releases its statistical findings. And every year, the findings generate feelings of deep conflict.
This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families reported the number of child abuse and neglect incidents in 2011 fell for the fifth straight year.
That's wonderful news. Fewer children subjected to abuse and neglect is something to celebrate. But such celebratory feelings always meet with sobering reality.
“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary of ACF. “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.”
Some of the statistics in the report:
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570. That's down significantly from 1,720 in 2007 and slightly from 1,580 in 2010.
82 percent of those killed were younger than 4. The child fatality rate was higher for boys.
White children accounted for almost 41 percent of the fatality victims, black children for 28 percent and Hispanic children for 18 percent.
One or more parents caused 78 percent of the fatalities. Women were the most likely perpetrators in all abuse and neglect cases.
Child welfare agencies nationwide handled an estimated 3.4 million referrals alleging child maltreatment.
In Oklahoma, the report found 7,836 child victims in 2011 — about 8 percent of the state's child population. Infants were the most likely to suffer neglect and abuse. Our state's rate of 4.06 deaths per 100,000 children was second only to West Virginia (4.16).