Child Abuse Data

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa envisions a state free from child abuse and recognizes the effort it will take to achieve this mission. First, it’s essential to understand the prevalence of child abuse in Iowa today, so we can identify the obstacles we’re facing. Second, it will require Iowans from every community to work together to ensure children are living in homes that are safe and free from abuse.

For over 15 years, PCA Iowa has analyzed Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) figures to identify trends, developments, and challenges in child abuse. PCA Iowa has shared this analysis and trend data on this website. Changes in Iowa’s handling of child abuse reports beginning in 2014 make it harder to compare some figures over time.

In 2014, DHS instituted a reform called Differential Response, which creates two pathways for handling reports alleging denial of critical care (commonly called neglect). Denial of critical care reports initially seen as involving low risk are assigned to the Family Assessment pathway, which does not lead to a determination whether there was child abuse. Reports with a higher perceived risk to children are assigned to the traditional Child Abuse Assessment pathway, where DHS staff make a determination whether there is abuse. (Family Assessment reports can be transferred to the Child Abuse Assessment pathway if the risk of harm to a child is greater than first perceived.)

Here is how DHS handled the assignment of accepted reports in calendar year 2015:

  • Reports accepted: 24,298
    • Assigned to Family Assessment pathway: 7,469 (30.7 %)
    • Assigned to Child Abuse Assessment pathway: 16,829 (69.3 %)
      • Cases of confirmed or founded child abuse: 6,042 (35.9 %)
      • Total children found to be abused: 8,298

Because of the Differential Response changes, the total number of children abused (8,298) is far lower than in 2013 and earlier:

Number of Iowa Children Abused, 2006-2015

14,000 13,455 12,788 11,003 12,442 12,595 11,747 11,637 12,276 7,429 8,298
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Age of child abuse victims: Child abuse disproportionately impacts young children. In 2015, 49.3 percent of child abuse victims were under six years old.

Categories of child abuse: In previous years, denial of critical care cases comprised almost 80 percent of total abuse cases. In 2015, almost two out of five denial of critical care cases were assigned to Family Assessment and did not receive a determination of abuse. By contrast, all reports involving the other forms of abuse went the Child Abuse Assessment pathway and were subject to a determination of abuse. As a result of this different handling of reports, the proportion of all cases of confirmed or founded abuse that involved denial of critical care declined to 71.7 percent. The next most common types of confirmed or founded abuse were physical injury (12.1 percent), illegal drugs in a child’s body because of caretaker action or inaction (9.4 percent), and sexual abuse (4.9 percent). The number of founded incidents of sexual abuse (600) is the lowest in over two decades, and the meth manufacturing incidents the lowest since it became a category of abuse in 2001.

Number of Incidents by Abuse Category, 2015

Incidents by Abuse Category Number Percent
Denial of Critical Care 8,852 71.7%
Physical Abuse 1,491 12.1%
Drug-Affected Child 1,164 9.4%
Sexual Abuse 600 4.9%
Sex Offender Allowed Access to Child 158 1.3%
Meth Manufacturing near a Child 74 0.6%

Specific child abuse data is available per county. More detailed child abuse in Iowa data is available for anyone looking for more information.

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Prevent Child Abuse Iowa 2704 Fleur Drive | Des Moines, IA 50321 | P: (515) 244.2200 | F: (515) 280.7835 | Toll Free: (800) 237.1815

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