Child Abuse and Neglect

Alabama’s #8 Health Concern

Child abuse and neglect are important health issues for Alabama. Child abuse is defined as harm or a threat of harm to a child’s health or welfare. Child neglect is negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child, including the failure to provide adequately for a child. In Alabama, the Office of Child Protective Services of the Family Services Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources is responsible for collecting reports of child abuse and neglect. Additionally, the Office of Child Protective Services maintains the central registry on child abuse and neglect, applies and monitors grants for protective services projects, and provides case consultation services for child abuse and neglect.

Alabamians identified child abuse and neglect as the eighth greatest current health concern in Alabama. Unfortunately, instances of child abuse and neglect are often unreported. Many states have enacted mandatory reporting laws that compel certain professionals to report child abuse and neglect to a state or local agency. In Alabama, health care professionals, school teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, day care employees, and clergy are required by law to report suspected or known instances of child abuse or neglect. Reports of child abuse or neglect may be provided to local police, the Office of Child Protective Services, or any group designated by the Office of Child Protective Services to receive reports of child abuse and neglect.

Alabama Child Abuse and Neglect Highlights

  • The statewide rate of reported cases of child abuse and neglect has been relatively steady for the past several years at a rate of less than 19 cases per 1,000 children.
  • The data available is for reported cases of child abuse and neglect, not confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect. As child abuse and neglect cases are often underreported, this could lead to reporting bias where counties with better reporting appear to have higher rates of child abuse and neglect than counties with poor reporting.
  • There is no United States comparison data available for this measure. Also, this data is not available by race or gender.
  • The rate of reported cases for rural counties is slightly higher than the rate of reported cases for urban counties (19.8 versus 17.5).

Health Indicators

The indicator selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state and monitoring future changes in the state of child abuse and neglect in Alabama is the rate of reported cases of child abuse and neglect according to the Office of Child Protective Services. The measure was selected because it was the only measure that was readily available for child abuse and neglect. Having a rate based on confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect would be preferable because that would reduce the impact of reporting bias. Different indicators may be added in the future if they become available.

Resources


Page last updated: April 14, 2017