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
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%|
|Sex Offender Allowed Access to Child||158||1.3%|
|Meth Manufacturing near a Child||74||0.6%|