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Child Welfare

- August 26, 2016
Should more be done to protect children?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
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Featured Report

Child abuse and a foster care system rocked by scandal continue to garner national headlines. At last count, in 2014, more than 700,000 American children were victims of abuse or neglect, and nearly 1,600 died. Some experts say caseworkers often are too willing to leave children with their biological parents in abusive homes in an effort to keep families together. Others say, however, that while many foster parents do a good job, too many children suffer from abuse, neglect or sexual exploitation in foster homes. Social workers, child advocates and researchers are trying to determine how child welfare agencies can better prevent abuse or rescue children suffering from it. A national commission has called for more prevention research, and Congress is considering helping states pay for family counseling and other services to help children at risk of harm. Meanwhile, some communities are experimenting with the use of “big data” algorithms to help identify which children are most at risk of abuse.

Family First Act

Supporters of a bipartisan bill in Congress aim to keep children out of the foster system.

State-Level Developments

Reformers are trying to improve child welfare agencies.

Research Efforts

Scholars are studying the causes of child abuse.

1850s–1912Advocacy groups organize to help children.
1930s–1974Federal government assumes authority over child protection.
1970s–1997Congress emphasizes keeping families united over placing children in foster care.
1999–PresentClass-action lawsuits alert public to failures of child protection agencies.

Can “big data” help save children from abuse?


Sean Hughes
Managing Partner, Government Affairs, Social Change Partners.


Richard Wexler
Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
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