News Release from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

February 5, 2008
CONTACT: 512-463-0119

Child Abuse and Neglect Effects are Felt Beyond Victims and Families

AUSTIN, TX -- State Senator Carlos Uresti hopes that a report put out by Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) will bring renewed efforts to the fight against child abuse. The report estimated the annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States at approximately $104 billion. From this staggering amount, direct costs of child maltreatment, including judicial, foster care, law enforcement, and health system responses account for $33 billion. Seventy billion dollars can be attributed to indirect costs, including long-term economic effects. The local, state, and federal cost of providing foster care was $23 billion in 2004.

Each year, close to one million children become confirmed victims of some form of child abuse. The impact is pervasive and has long-lasting effects not only on children, but also on their families and society as a whole. The consequences from child abuse in relation to a child’s development are often immediately evident. Usually, multiple developmental domains are impacted including physical, emotional, social, and cognitive and these effects typically extend far beyond childhood, according to a study conducted by Deborah Daro.

"Most people don't think of the costs associated with child abuse," said Senator Uresti. "We focus on the horror of child abuse, and not on financial implications, but the reality is that child abuse is a drain on our society both emotionally and financially. A child that is the victim of abuse today will carry that experience with him or her for life, and that impacts many things during the course of one's life."

Currently, states may only access money under Title IV-E, the principal source of federal child welfare funding, only after children have been removed from their home and enter foster care. Of the $7.2 billion in federal funds dedicated for child welfare in 2007, approximately 90 percent supported children in foster care placements ($4.5 billion) and children adopted from foster care ($2.0 billion). States can only use about 10 percent of federal dedicated child welfare funds flexibly. In other words, this is the only federal funding available for family services and support, including prevention or reunification services.

"We have to focus on prevention," Uresti said. Studies conducted in Michigan and Colorado have estimated that for every dollar spent on prevention, approximately $19 could be saved on direct and indirect services. This equals more money spent on effectively improving the quality of life for millions of Americans, and less money spent on everything from protective services and healthcare to the costs of foster care and the justice system.

"If we are to solve this problem, two things must be done: increase funding for prevention at both the federal and state level; and reevaluate how we as a society choose to allocate our time, energy, and resources to this overall effort,” said Senator Uresti. "Because at the end of the day - to protect a child from abuse is priceless."

For more information, please contact Diana Martinez at 512-463-0119.