Working to ensure a safe tomorrow for the children of Pennsylvania.

Impact of Prevention
Prevention is the best solution for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families; while preventable, an estimated one million children are confirmed victims of child maltreatment each year in the United States.  The impact of child maltreatment is profound.  Research shows that maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime.  Abuse and neglect have pervasive and long-lasting effects on children, their families and the society.  Adverse consequences for children’s development often are evident immediately, encompassing multiple domains including physical, emotional, social and cognitive.  For many, these effects extend far beyond childhood into adolescence and adulthood, potentially compromising the lifetime productivity of abused and neglected victims.

It is well documented that children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to experience adverse outcomes throughout their life span in the following areas:

  • Poor physical health (i.e., chronic fatigue, altered immune function, hypertension, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity)
  • Poor emotional and mental health (i.e., depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Social difficulties (i.e., insecure attachments with caregivers, which may lead to difficulties in developing trusting relationships with peers and adults later in life)
  • Cognitive dysfunction (i.e., deficits in attention, abstract reasoning, language development and problem-solving skills, which ultimately affect academic achievement and school performance)
  • High-risk health behaviors (i.e., a higher number of lifetime sexual partners, younger age at first voluntary intercourse, teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse)
  • Behavioral problems (i.e., aggression, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, abusive or violent behavior)

Economic Impact
The immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect in the United States costs hundreds of millions of dollars each day and approximately one hundred billion dollars each year.  The costs of responding to the impact of child abuse and neglect not only fall on the victims and their families, but also society.  The costs can be placed into two categories: direct costs, those costs associated with the immediate needs of children who are abused or neglected; and indirect costs, those costs associated with the long-term and/or secondary effects of child abuse and neglect.  According to Prevent Child Abuse America, the annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States of America was $80.2 billion in 2012 (  This number is a conservative estimate as not all indirect costs were able to be included in the calculation of this data.  Additionally, while this number is astounding, it does not factor in the impact of the pain, suffering and reduced quality of life that victims of child abuse and neglect experience.  Finally, this pain may be multiplied by the potential of multigenerational patterns and cycles of abuse.

Direct costs
include hospitalizations, mental health care system, child welfare services system and law enforcement while indirect costs include special education, juvenile delinquency, mental health and health care, adult criminal justice system and lost productivity to society.

While figures vary from state to state, one result remains consistent and that is the cost of prevention programs are far less than the economic impact associated with child abuse and neglect.  As research shows, successful child abuse interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.  Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.  They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.  With this in mind, the Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund continues to support strategies that focus on strengthening families and building protective factors and resiliency within adults and children in order to prevent child abuse and neglect.