Have Child Maltreatment and Child Placement Rates Declined?

Document Type



It is argued that the actual incidence of child maltreatment remains elusive and is, in fact, indeterminate. Factors that might be reflected in variations in child maltreatment rates, other than child harm or endangerment at least partially attributable to caretakers, are explored. But since most children residing in foster care in the United States have been placed there for the alleged reasons of child abuse and neglect, we might expect trends over time in the rate of alleged maltreatment to have some bearing on the out-of-home placement population rate. On the contrary, it is shown that the child placement population rate has risen in recent years, even though the overall child maltreatment rate has not. Based on existing data, the child placement population in the United States is calculated to have been nearly one million children on any given day in 2011, higher than at any point throughout the previous century. Brief comparisons are made with child maltreatment and child placement trends in other countries.


Adoption; Child abuse and neglect; Child maltreatment; Child placement; Child welfare; Foster care


Social Work

Publisher Citation

Pelton, L.H. (2013). Have child maltreatment and child placement rates declined? Children and Youth Services Review, 35(11), 1816-1822.

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