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Child Abuse and Neglect

Alabama’s #9 Health Indicator

Child abuse and neglect (also referred to as child maltreatment) are important health issues for Alabama and were identified as the ninth health indicator. Unfortunately, instances of child abuse and neglect are often underreported (CDC Child Abuse and Neglect). In Alabama, healthcare professionals, schoolteachers, law enforcement offices, social workers, daycare employees, and clergy are required by law to report suspected or known instances of child abuse or neglect.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect are the four most common types of child abuse. Chronic abuse may result in increasing inflammatory stress markers. Adverse childhood experiences can lead to a higher risk for mental health disorders, chronic diseases, and a poorer socioeconomic status in adulthood (CDC Child Abuse and Neglect). All forms of abuse could lead to impaired psychosocial relationships and heightened anxiety (ADPH Injury Prevention).

Disproportionately Affected Populations

A combination of individual, familial, community, and societal factors contribute to child abuse and neglect outcomes. According to CDC, “rates of child abuse and neglect are five times higher for children in families with low socioeconomic status compared to children in families with higher socioeconomic status” (CDC Child Abuse and Neglect). Communities that experience high rates of violence and crime, communities with high unemployment rates, and caregivers with unstable housing are also risk factors for child abuse and neglect (CDC Child Abuse and Neglect).

Geographic Variation

To protect children’s identities, data regarding geographic variation has not been reported. On the state level, child abuse cases have been steadily increasing throughout the years. There were 8,466 child maltreatment victims in 2015, and the number increased to 12,158 new victims in 2018. Also, there were 23.3 child abuse calls per 1,000 children under age 18 years old in 2019 (see data reports below).

Alabama Child Abuse and Neglect Highlights

In Alabama, the Office of Child Protective Services (OCPS) within the Family Services Division of the Alabama DHR is responsible for collecting child abuse and neglect reports. Data are retrieved from the Alabama DHR and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System:

  • Child abuse calls have increased between 2015-2017, with the highest call rate in 2017 (25.1 calls per 1,000 children).
  • Most maltreatment calls were made by adults concerned for children under 12 years old, with 16.7 percent of the calls being children under one year old in 2018.

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.


Page last updated: May 30, 2024