- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The number of fatally abused children rose slightly in 2004 from the previous year as the overall number of abused and neglected children dropped, a new report says.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services said that one reason for the increase in fatalities is improved reporting by states, but that the drop in abuse was encouraging.

“Nevertheless, we cannot tolerate the abuse of even one child,” said Wade F. Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families.

The number of fatally abused children rose 2 percent from 1,460 in 2003 to 1,490 in 2004, according to the “Child Maltreatment 2004” report. Overall neglect and abuse dropped 4 percent from 872,000 in 2003 to 838,000.

More than 80 percent of the children who died of abuse or neglect were 3 or younger. Among infant boys, the fatality rate was 18 deaths per 100,000 boys. Among infant girls, the fatality rate was 17 deaths per 100,000 girls.

More than three-quarters of the children were killed by one or more parents, and almost a third were killed by their mothers acting alone.

Postpartum depression sometimes plays a role, but there are myriad reasons mothers or fathers hurt or kill their children, said John Orellana, a spokesman for Childhelp USA, the nationally known child-abuse prevention and treatment organization that runs the 1-800-4-A-Child hot line.

Overall, in 2004, state child protective services received about 2.9 million reports of possible child maltreatment. Less than a third of the reports — 872,000 — were substantiated.

This translates into a child victimization rate of 11.9 per 1,000 children in 2004. This is about 5 percent lower than in 2001, the most recent peak, when the victimization rate was 12.5 per 1,000.

Overall, the highest victimization rate was 15.3 per 1,000 children in 1993.

As is typical, roughly two-thirds of the substantiated reports in 2004 involved child neglect.

Almost 18 percent of victims were abused, about 10 percent were sexually abused, 7 percent suffered “psychological” abuse and 2 percent were “medically” neglected. In addition, 15 percent of abused children experienced “other” types of maltreatment such as abandonment or exposure to drugs at birth.

These victimization rates have fluctuated only slightly in the past five years, the HHS report said.

Nearly 79 percent of child abusers are parents, followed by “other relatives” (6.5 percent) and “unmarried partners of parent” (4.1 percent).

Abusive foster parents in New Jersey, Ohio and Florida have made headlines in recent months, but statistically, this is rare: 0.04 percent of foster parents were reported to be abusive or neglectful, the federal report said.

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