In addition to the emotional, psychological, and physical costs to children and families, the economic costs of child abuse to society are considerable.
In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America released the second comprehensive report on the direct (immediate intervention) and indirect (long-term) costs of child abuse and neglect in America. The report estimates that the United States spends $103.8 billion annually in response to child abuse (Wang and Holton, 2007).
The report analyzes information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and others. It estimates that the U.S. spends more than $33.1 billion annually on the direct effects of child abuse. The largest cost was for the child welfare system: $25.4 billion a year. Other direct costs included hospitalization/treatment of injuries ($6.6 billion), mental health care ($1.1 billion), and law enforcement interventions ($33.3 million).
The report also projects the indirect or long-term effects of abuse. According to Prevent Child Abuse America, the amount spent annually treating all of the long-term, indirect effects of child abuse, including special education, mental and physical health care, juvenile delinquency, lost productivity, and adult criminality is more than $70.7 billion.
Some of the most costly long-term effects are those associated with responding to adults who, because of earlier abuse, are involved in criminal activity. The report puts those costs at over $27.9 billion annually. It bases that figure on a National Institute of Justice study that estimates that 13% of all adult violence can be linked to earlier child maltreatment. The report also includes $7.2 billion in annual costs associated with juvenile delinquency, which is likewise linked to earlier abuse for many (Maas, Herrenkohl, & Sousa, 2008).
Another indirect cost the report cites is that of lost productivity to society from adult survivors of child abuse, who are disproportionately affected by unemployment and underemployment later in life. The report estimates the cost of lost productivity at $33 billion annually.
The Cost of Prevention
The average annual per child cost of a mentoring program is $1,000. The cost of providing a year of employment training for unemployed youths is $2,492. The average cost of ensuring that a low income family has affordable housing is $6,830. The average annual per child cost of Head Start is $7,028. The annual per child cost for a high quality comprehensive full-day, full-year early childhood education program is $13,000.
But the average annual per prisoner cost is $22,650.
States spend on average almost 3 times as much per prisoner as per public school pupil, and North Dakota spends 4 times as much.
Source: America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline, Children's Defense Fund Report 2007.
|Societal Costs of Child Abuse and Neglect|