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Measuring Costs of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Mathematic Model of Specific Cost Estimations

Author: CYNTHIA CONRAD
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 29 No. 1

Few empirical facts exist regarding the actual costs of child
abuse in the United States. Consistent data is not available for national
or even statewide analysis. Clearly there is a need for such accounting
in order to fully understand the damage created by child abuse and
neglect. Policy makers and social welfare planners should take child
abuse costs into consideration when determining expenditures for
prevention and intervention programs. The real savings may far
outweigh the costs of such programs when both direct and indirect
costs of child abuse and neglect enter into the analysis.
This paper offers a model in which the actual costs of child
abuse and neglect, based on direct, indirect, and opportunity costs
associated with each case. Direct costs are those associated with the
treatment of abused and neglected children as well as the costs of
family intervention programs or foster care. Indirect costs are costs to
society created by the negative effects of child abuse and neglect
evinced by individuals who suffer such abuse and then as teens or
adults engage in criminal behavior. Indirect costs also derive from the
long term and ongoing health care needs required by victims of abuse,
for both physical and mental health disorders. With the existence of
this model, the author hopes to stimulate the discussion and desire for
better data collection and analysis.
In order to demonstrate the utility of the model, the author has
included some cost estimates from the Connecticut State Department of
Children and Families and the works of other scholars looking into the
question of costs for child abuse and neglect. This data represents the
best available at this time. As a result, the model appearing here is
specific to Connecticut. Even so, once more valid data becomes
available, the model’s structure and theoretical framework should adapt
to the needs of other states to facilitate better measurement of relevant
costs and provide a clearer picture of the utility of investment in the
prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

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