The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is working to prevent child abuse and mitigate its negative impact through partnerships, programs, and training and technical assistance. According to a report published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 3.5 million children were subject to at least one maltreatment report in fiscal year 2018. In that same year, it is estimated that 1,770 children in the United States died due to abuse and neglect, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
Identifying Child Abuse
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect, at a minimum:
"Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."
The definition of child abuse varies by state. Within the minimum standards set by CAPTA, each state establishes its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. Most states recognize the four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.
National Children's Alliance
In 2019, OJJDP awarded more than $19 million under its Victims of Child Abuse grant programs to support child advocacy centers and multidisciplinary teams of professionals who respond to the maltreatment of children.
The OJJDP-supported National Children's Alliance has launched the multi-year SHINE Campaign, which lifts up the voices of survivors and empowers local communities to better serve victims of child abuse. The effort aims to change the conversation on child sexual abuse to give individuals an accessible way to become child advocates and support the work of child advocacy centers.
National Mentoring Resource Center
OJJDP's National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) provides access to no-cost training and technical assistance, mentoring tools, and program and training materials.
NMRC highlights partnerships between mentoring organizations and child welfare agencies—partnerships that have proven effective in supporting youth and strengthening families. To receive these updates, sign up for the NMRC e-newsletter here.
OJJDP supports the following programs:
Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs), which coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases by utilizing multidisciplinary teams of professionals involved in child protective and victim advocacy services, law enforcement and prosecution, and physical and mental health. There are 900 CACs nationwide, 371,060 children helped last year and more than 2.291 million people received child abuse prevention training, according to the 2019 NAC Annual Report.
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC program) helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children. The ICAC program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing over 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is an information clearinghouse and national resource center on issues related to victims, missing and exploited children and operates a national toll-free hotline. There were 18.4 million reports to NCMEC's CyberTipline in 2018 and there were 1,300 attempted abductions in 2019, according to NCMEC's website.
State and local Court Appointed Special Advocate Programs (CASA) seeks to ensure that abused and neglected children receive high-quality representation in dependency court hearings. More than 271,800 children have a CASA volunteer speaking up for their best interests each year and more than 93,300 CASA volunteers help change children's lives daily, according to CASA's website.
Between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, OJJDP awarded more than $34.5 million to improve the judicial system’s handling of child maltreatment cases and to support training and technical assistance.
- Fiscal Year 2019—$13.4 million
- Fiscal Year 2018—$12.4 million
- Fiscal Year 2017—$8.8 million
OJJDP works to ensure that court personnel have the skills to address the complex needs of children who have been abused, neglected, or exploited and those who are at risk of victimization. The Office also aims to provide youth with access to well-trained volunteer advocates who represent their best interests.
Training and Technical Assistance
OJJDP provides training and technical assistance to professionals involved in investigating, prosecuting, and treating child abuse. In 2019, OJJDP awarded $10.7 million to the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association through the OJJDP FY 19 Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Membership and Accreditation Program and Training and Technical Assistance project. This program ensures that CASA volunteers are available to represent abused and neglected children and that they receive high-quality representation in dependency court hearings.
OJJDP provided $2.4 million under the VOCA Training and Technical Assistance for Child Abuse Prosecutors program to enhance the effectiveness of the attorneys and others who investigate and prosecute child abuse cases. Access the provider directory for a network of OJJDP-funded TTA providers that deliver targeted support to policymakers and practitioners.
In Focus: Child Protection: Dependency Courts This OJJDP In Focus fact sheet outlines programs, training and funding to ensure that court personnel have the skills to address the complex needs of these children and their families.
Children Exposed to Violence and Victimization Access information from OJJDP's Model Programs Guide about evidence-based programs for children exposed to violence and victimization.
Child Physical Abuse: A Guide to the CAC Response View resources and insights from the National Children's Alliance workgroup of Children's Advocacy Centers that discuss evidence-based interventions to meet the specific needs of physical abuse victims.
Enhanced Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases Developed with support from OJJDP, this publication is recommended for use by judges and court professionals as a tool to enhance court practice in child abuse and neglect cases.
Juveniles as Victims This section of OJJDP's Statistical Briefing Book provides data on child abuse and neglect, crimes that take place at school, and murders and sexual assaults of juveniles.
View the OJJDP publications listing where you can find materials from the following:
- National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence Series: Access data and findings from the most comprehensive nationwide survey of the incidence and prevalence of children's exposure to violence to date.
- Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse: This series provides practical references for law enforcement and other professionals to determine whether a child has been abused or exploited and to collect evidence necessary for effective prosecution.