Thriving Children, Thriving Economy
The economy is one area that more and more Americans are beginning to see as deeply connected to the healthy development of our children. We live and work in a highly competitive and connected global economy. If we are to compete over time, we must begin with healthy, thriving children who can learn and grow into stable, contributing adults.
Thriving or Surviving?
At 17 percent, the poverty rate for children is higher than working-aged adults (18-64) or seniors (65+). Children are disproportionately poor, as they make up 35 percent of people living in poverty, but make up only 25 percent of the total U.S. population. We need to advance efforts in a large scale, systematic way that seek to reduce - and even eliminate - child poverty and the countless negative consequences of growing up in poverty. A thriving economy begins with thriving children, but many children in America are simply trying to survive.
Invest Now or Pay Later
When we fail to provide every child in America with a healthy chance to grow and develop there are many social impacts, but there also are enormous economic costs to our country. The fact is, when we invest in healthy child development, we are investing in community and economic development. But unfortunately, children are sometimes exposed to extreme and sustained stress like child abuse and neglect, which can undermine a child’s development. This toxic stress damages the developing brain and adversely affects a child's learning and behavior.
- Child abuse and neglect are preventable, yet each year in the United States, close to one million children are confirmed victims of child maltreatment.
- The emotional and physical effects are detrimental to those involved, and the costs of responding to the impact of child abuse and neglect are borne by the victims and their families, but also by society.
Based on data drawn from a variety of sources, the estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect is $103.8 billion (2007 value).
The costs associated with child abuse and neglect have been segmented into two categories:
- Direct costs, that is, those costs associated with the immediate needs of children who are abused or neglected; and
- Indirect costs, that is, those costs associated with the long-term and/or secondary effects of child abuse and neglect.
- Hospitalization……$6 billion
- Mental Health Care System……$1 billion
- Child Welfare Services System……$24 billion
- Law Enforcement......$33 million
- Special Education……$2 billion
- Juvenile Delinquency……$7 billion
- Mental Health and Health Care……$67 million
- Adult Criminal Justice System……$28 billion
- Lost Productivity to Society……$33 billion
Although the economic costs associated with child abuse and neglect are substantial, it is essential to recognize that it is impossible to calculate the impact of the pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life that victims of child abuse and neglect experience.
But the good news is we now know how we can each help prevent child abuse and neglect from ever occurring. We are advocating for the expansion of innovative programming such as home visiting services, increased funding for the prevention of shaken baby syndrome, child-friendly workplaces and comprehensive flex time programs. We are personally promoting the health and wellbeing of every child in our community, donating to child advocacy causes, participating in youth-focused community organizations and dedicating time to babysit or support family or friends who are under stress.
We have awakened to the impact we each can have on our children when we take action – even seemingly small action – that can help all of America’s children grow to become healthy, caring and contributing adults.
For more information visit www.preventchildabuse.org.
The National Movement for America's Children
 Wang, CT, & Holton, J (2007). Total estimated cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States. Chicago, IL: Prevent Child Abuse America. http://www.preventchildabuse.org/about_us/media_releases/pcaa_pew_economic_impact_study_final.pdf