What does child abuse and neglect look like in Virginia? 

February 28, 2013

This is the first post in a series of three from SCAN’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program, written by Lindsay Warner Ferrer. Lindsay is a CASA Case Supervisor and was previously a trained volunteer with the program.

What do you envision when you think of an abused or neglected child? A school-aged child with bruises? A hospital discovering past trauma? While many of us have a specific picture in our heads of what it does (or doesn’t) look like in our communities, the data often show a very different picture. Here are a few key facts about what abuse and neglect looks like in Virginia:

graph1The numbers: The latest data from State Fiscal Year 2012 show that over 6,000 children were officially abused or neglected (1,081 in Northern Virginia), meaning that an investigation occurred and a review of the facts suggested that the abuse or neglect report was “founded”. An graph2additional 37,000 children (7,291 in Northern Virginia) worked with Child Protective Services to complete a family services needs assessment, develop agraph3 written safety plan and receive needed services.

The faces: Data show that two-thirds of Virginia children in founded investigations were white and one-third were black.

Contrary to popular belief, physical abuse is not the most common type of abuse. Over half of children in founded investigations were physically neglected, meaning that caretakers failed to provide food, clothing, shelter graph4or supervision to a point where the child’s health and safety were in danger. Another quarter of children were physically abused.

Young children are at the highest risk for abuse and neglect. One third of children in founded investigations were younger than age 4 and 42 percent were ages 4 to 11.

The reporters: School staff, parents/relatives, law enforcement, and counselors/therapists were the most common reporters of abuse and neglect in Virginia.

– Lindsay

CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of many of these children in court. In Alexandria and Arlington, 77 volunteers served 177 children in 2012. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how CASA volunteers can make a difference in the lives of abuse and neglected children.