What is the rate of child abuse in Oregon?
That's a harder question than it seems. Because there is no one way to collect information about child neglect and abuse, coming to an agreement about the “actual” rates is difficult, almost impossible. Additionally, surveys of the general population reveal that many adults who suffered from abuse or neglect as children or youth never tell anyone. So even with the most accurate numbers from reported cases, the data will always undercount the actual number of children experiencing abuse or neglect.
Despite these challenges – including reported rates that are lower than actual rates – a great deal of trustworthy information does exist. Some studies report annual rates of abuse and neglect and others report over longer periods of time. Some reports reflect only those cases officially reported to child welfare agencies and law enforcement, while others use different methods and collect other data to account for both reported and unreported incidents of neglect and/or abuse.
According to the federally funded Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (2010), three times as many children are maltreated as are reported to Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies. This statistic has remained consistent over the 18 years that these studies have been conducted. The reality that only one in three children who suffer from significant neglect or abuse are ever involved with the child welfare system has profound implications for the measurement of any prevention efforts.
90by30 is working to better understand Lane County rates and trends so that we can:
- use this information for planning purposes.
- accurately measure changes in rates over time as we implement prevention strategies.
Good information will help us to know who is more at-risk for child abuse in Lane County, how to accurately talk about it, and where to most effectively direct our community strategies.
There are other ways of getting good information than relying on reported rates, of course. One number that is easy to track and indicative of the scope of the problem is the annual number of Lane County children who spend time in the foster care system. In 2011, 1,703 Lane County kids spent at least one day in foster care.
See below for a highlights of the statewide situation, from the Oregon Child Welfare Data Book (ODHS, 2011) and the Oregon Women’s Health and Safety Survey (OWHSS, 2004).
The Bigger Picture
By some reports, as many as a billion children, more than half of children worldwide, are exposed to violence every year, including physical, sexual, and/or emotional forms of abuse (Horvath, 2014; Bott, Guedes, Goodwin, & Mendoza, 2012; Lansford & Deater-Deckard, 2012). In the U.S. in 2012 alone, there were more than 3.4 million reports, involving over 6 million children, to child protective services. (Lanier, Maguire-Jack, Walsh, Drake, & Hubel, 2014; Tomisch, Jennings, Richards, Gover, & Powers, 2015).
Oregon and Lane County Data
Highlights from the Oregon Child Welfare Data Book (ODHS, 2016) and the Oregon Women’s Health and Safety Survey (OWHSS, 2004) give a statewide view of the issue.
Reports of child abuse and neglect are on the rise in Oregon. In 2000, Oregon Child Welfare received 40,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. In 2016, this number rose to 76,668 reports of child abuse and neglect.
Child neglect is the most common form of child abuse. In Oregon in 2016, among all acts of child abuse and neglect reported to child welfare, neglect was the most frequently identified type of maltreatment (42.9%), followed by threat of harm (40.7%), physical abuse (7.9%) and sexual abuse (6.8%).
Child abuse and neglect usually first happens very early in a child’s life*:
In Oregon and across the U.S., very young children are most at-risk for abuse and neglect. In Oregon in 2016, 46.3 percent of confirmed* child victims were younger than 6 years old.
*Note: These numbers are somewhat misleading as they reflect reports that were investigated and then ‘founded’ to have merit by child welfare investigators. It is the policy of child welfare agencies to use their limited resources primarily to investigate reports relating to very young children, because they are the most vulnerable. By not investigating anywhere near the same percentage of reports relating to adolescents, these numbers very likely disproportionately under-represent Oregon teens.
Child abuse and neglect most often happens in the privacy of our homes. Among “confirmed” (or “founded”) incidents of abuse and neglect in Oregon in 2016, family members, such as mother, father, or live-in companion, were responsible for 94.1% of the reported acts of abuse and neglect. Mothers account for 39.7% of reports and fathers for 37.8%.
Note: These rates do not generally include children who witness or hear intimate partner violence (domestic violence). Most acts of severe intimate partner physical and sexual violence are men being abusive to women.
Child abuse and neglect happens across all racial groups in Oregon. In 2016, 64.2% of reported child victims identified as Caucasian, 12.7% as Hispanic, 4.5% African American, 3.2% American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 1.6% Asian/Pacific Islander.
Child abuse and neglect includes witnessing violence in the home. In the 5-year period before the Oregon Women’s Health and Safety Survey, 26, 910 children directly witnessed a physical assault and 1,178 witnessed a sexual assault against a mother or adult female caregiver (OWHSS, 2004).
Our children often feel like they have no one to talk to when abuse and neglect is happening to them or near them in their homes.
Additional Local Factors
Family-Level Risk Factors for Child Abuse & Neglect.
There are several factors that are often a part of households where children are reported as abused and/or neglected in Oregon. These "risk factors" in 2016 included:
Alcohol and drug problems (43.5% of households)
Domestic violence (33.7% of households)
Parent involvement with law enforcement (25.2% of households)
Family Financial Distress (17.5% of households)
In Lane County in 2016, there were 3,704 allegations of child abuse and neglect. Of those allegations, 726 were substantiated: 73 child physical abuse, 77 child sexual abuse and exploitation, 556 child neglect substantiations, and 576 ‘threat of harm.’ This doesn’t mean that all the other reported cases did not include some level of neglect or abuse – it simply means that the investigators found no evidence to substantiate the claim.
In a study by the University of Oregon’s Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect, randomly selected Lane County residents were read a comprehensive definition of child abuse and neglect. Following that definition, participants were asked: “based on this definition of child abuse and neglect, did you personally experience child abuse and/or neglect?” Lane County residents who responded "yes" were:
- 37.7% Female
- 31.1% Male
This represents, by extrapolation, approximately 100,000 adults living in Lane County today.
Sexual Abuse Only
In a study by the University of Oregon’s Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect, and in partnership with the Ford Family Foundation, rural Oregonians who attended a three-hour child sexual abuse video-based training were asked: “Based on the definition of child sexual abuse as portrayed in the video, were you sexually abused in your childhood?” Among 6,000+ participants across rural Oregon, 31% responded "yes."
How Often Did Someone Help You?
In 2010, 351 Eugene and Springfield residents who were abused as children were randomly telephoned and asked: “During the period of time when you first experienced any of the abuse or violence just mentioned, how often did anyone try to help or protect you?’ Their response options were never, rarely, sometimes and often (Todahl, Olson, & Walters, 2016). They responded:
- Rarely 19.4%
- Never 47.6%
- Sometimes 12.8%
- Often 11.7%