Child Welfare

Overview of Child Welfare in the United States and Statistics

As part of our core belief that all children deserve to be raised in loving and supportive family environments, NFYI is committed to promoting the welfare of all children.

What is Child Welfare?1

“Child welfare” is an umbrella term that refers to a spectrum of services offered by child welfare agencies designed to protect the welfare of children and provide families with the support necessary to properly care for their children. These services include:



  • Providing services to families that need assistance caring for their children
  • Supporting and/or coordinating services to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.
  • Working with children, youth, and families to establish permanent family ties such as family reunification or adoption.
  • Fielding and investigating reports of suspected child abuse or neglect
  • Supporting the wellbeing of children in the care of relatives or foster families and ensuring that their educational needs are being met.
  • Arranging for children to be put in the care of kin or foster families when their home environment is deemed as unsafe or unhealthy.

The child welfare system is not a single entity but rather a network of agencies operating at the state and local level. Public child welfare agencies often work in collaboration with private child welfare agencies, community-based organizations, and other public agencies to achieve their overall goals of protecting the safety of children and making sure families have the means and support necessary to raise their children.

Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect are crimes that are collectively referred to as child maltreatment. According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g) that was amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, behaviors and acts that constitute child abuse and/or neglect are defined, at a minimum, as:

“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” 2

Facts and Figures: Child Abuse and Neglect in the U.S.

In the year 2014 (FFY), there were an estimated 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect nationally, putting the rate at 9.4 victims per 1,000 children in the U.S.

  • Neglect (75%) is the most common form of child maltreatment, followed by physical abuse (17%). Some children are victims of multiple forms of maltreatment.
  • In FFY 2014, there were 1,540 instances of child deaths reported in 50 states.
  • Over 70% of these deaths were children under the age of 3.
  • Nearly 80% of child fatalities involve one or both parents3.

Foster Care and Child Welfare

Foster care is a temporary service provided by state child welfare agencies for children who, due to any number of circumstances including neglect and abuse, cannot live under the care of one or both biological parents. Among the effects of foster care on children that have been documented are psychological and/or emotional trauma, and a host of other emotional, developmental, and behavioral issues.

NFYI and Child Welfare System Reform

The National Foster Youth Institute works closely with legislators in the federal government and across the country to reform the child welfare system and enact laws aimed at protecting children and empowering foster children and families.


1Child Welfare Information Gateway

2Child welfare Information Gateway Is Child Abuse and Neglect Defined in Federal Law?

3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families

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