April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month to recognize the efforts of those who support children and their families and a chance to examine how we can all help. This April marks the 38th anniversary of Child Abuse Prevention Month. First established in 1983, this annually recognized month serves as a time to promote awareness and prevention of child abuse and neglect while also honoring the efforts of those who work tirelessly to support children and families. While progress has been made in recent years to prevent and address child abuse and neglect, the problem is still a major social issue in the United States and across the world. The month of April provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the impact of child maltreatment and the importance of prevention and community involvement.
The national rounded number of children who received a child protective services investigation or alternative response decreased from 3,476,000 for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2019 to 3,145,000 for FFY 2020. Comparing the national rounded number of victims from FFY 2019 (656,000) to the national rounded number of victims in 2020 (618,000) also shows a decrease. Additionally, we saw a reduction in child fatalities during this same period. The national estimate of children who died due to child maltreatment dropped from 1,830 for FFY 2019 to 1,750 for FFY 2020. Neglect, mainly driven by poverty issues, continues to be the dominant factor related to the interactions between families and public child welfare agencies and often can be the issue that initiates children entering the foster care system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families in many ways over the past several years. Some have lost loved ones to the virus, while others have dealt with job losses and financial hardship. This has made prevention and community work even more critical. There has been some good news, however. The rates of child abuse may have declined in 2020 and 2021. According to a recent article in JAMA Pediatrics (Dec 2021), “A review of available data suggests that there was not a significant rise in child abuse related to COVID-19. Child welfare reports dropped, emergency department (ED) visits declined, and hospitalizations were stable.”
We encourage everyone to take part in making their communities a better place for children and families. This necessitates supporting families, organizations, and communities in developing more prevention programs and employing proven strategies that address problems on the front end – before families fall into crisis and before child maltreatment occurs.
Please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s website for additional information about National Child Abuse Prevention Month. There are also local and state child abuse prevention organizations that can provide additional resources.
Jeff Lukich is a Senior Director and Child Welfare Strategy and Practice Lead at DLH Corporation. Previously, he served 30 years with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services overseeing all programs for the organization, including child welfare. He retired in 2018 as the Division’s Chief of Staff.
 2020 National Child Maltreatment Report – NCANDS (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System)
 Child Physical Abuse Did Not Increase During the Pandemic, JAMA Pediatrics, December 2021