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Child abuse costs more than $3 billion per year in Tennessee, new study finds

1 in 8 children to become substantiated victim of abuse; more than 35 percent of children suffer abuse and neglect

New study shows the impact of child abuse in Tennessee.

A new study reveals one in eight children will become a substantiated victim of abuse at least once from birth to age 18. The report uses substantiated cases, meaning investigated and confirmed cases. Unfortunately, the actual rate of child abuse and neglect is even higher. More than 35 percent of children are likely to suffer abuse and neglect, according to the study.

Researchers consider substantiated claims of four types of maltreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug exposure and neglect.

Economic impact

Researchers estimate the economic impact of substantiated claims of child abuse and neglect in Tennessee to be between $3.33 and $4.97 billion per year. The lifetime cost per victim nears $285,000. To estimate the costs, the study evaluates impacts related to child mortality from maltreatment, premature adult mortality, lower wages and productivity, and increased medical care costs, among other factors.

35% of children suffer abuse

One out of every eight children will become a confirmed victim of child abuse at least once, according to the report. However, the true prevalence of child abuse and neglect is greater.

“Periodically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services surveys community professionals, including teachers, first responders, social workers, probation officers, medical personnel, and CPS case managers,” the report states. “The consistent implication from these efforts is that the incidence of child maltreatment is approximately three times as great as the number of substantiated cases. If that is true, these figures indicate that over 35 percent of children in Tennessee suffer abuse and neglect at some point during their formative years.”

Prevention and support are key

The study shows preventing child maltreatment and helping children heal will produce a multitude of benefits related to higher labor force participation, improved population health, reduced rates of substance misuse, decreased incarceration rates, lower needs for state services and better life expectancy.

Efforts need to focus on prevention and training and education for parents and the community. Additionally, efforts need to involve providing economic support for families, greater access to mental health and counseling services for both parents and children.

Published June 6, the report, titled The Economic Costs of Child Abuse and Neglect in Tennessee, was completed by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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