According to a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 763,000 duplicate and 702,000 unique cases of maltreatment against children were reported. Nearly two-fifths of victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone, and one-fifth by their fathers acting alone.
One-third of first-time victims were under 4 years of age. Children younger than 1 year had the highest rate of victimization at 20.6 per 1,000 children. Victimization of boys was 48.2 percent and girls 51.1 percent.
The highest rates of victims were African-Americans (22.3 percent), Hispanics (20.7 percent), and White (44 percent). They comprised nearly 87 percent of first-time victims.
As a perspective early childhood educator, these numbers are disturbing. That children under the age of 4 are at such a high rate for victimization and that the victimization of children crosses the lines of gender and ethnicity make this a problem that needs to be addressed by society as a whole. Children of maltreatment grow into adults that are more likely to abuse their own children.
Children with just single maltreatment report are at a 20 percent to 50 percent higher rate for problems in adolescence, such as delinquency, substance abuse in teen years or getting sexually transmitted diseases, than non-maltreated children. Early child maltreatment can have a negative effect on the ability of both men and women to establish and maintain healthy, intimate relationships in adulthood.
Adult outcomes included adult substance abuse or growing up and having children whom they then maltreated. As adults, children with four or more reports were at least twice as likely to later abuse their own children and have contact with the mental health system.
There are several programs available to help stop child maltreatment. One that comes to mind is the Durham Family Initiative, which works to improve family well being and reduce child maltreatment by coordinating services for high-risk families. Children are identified through home visits after birth or through referrals from pre-schools, schools and clinics.
The program also works with community leaders and agencies to implement a shared information system. As a community, it is the best interest of everyone to be vigilant in our efforts to stop the maltreatment of children, and make this area a better place to live.