Child maltreatment is a serious problem in the United States, specifically in Florida. Florida’s child victim rate is among the highest in the nation (top 25%). Child Protective Services in the state of Florida has an extremely fast response time. In fact, Florida has the shortest state average response time, at 9 hours. This is the amount of time that passes between when the report is received and there is face-to-face interaction with the suspected victim. Around 66% of reports received actually get a CPS response.
In 2010, Florida had a total of 1,748 investigation workers. Those 1,748 investigators completed over 151,00 reports! That is an average of around 87 reports per investigative worker! Despite Florida’s fast response maltreatment is still a huge problem for our state. With 180 child fatalities, it is clear that the state of Florida has a child maltreatment problem. Maltreatment can cause a vast range of problems that can be with a child for life. The problems range from developmental, to physical, to emotional or psychological. The most common form of maltreatment is neglect, with a rate of 55% in Florida (Department of Health & Human Services, 2010). The good news is that the verified child deaths by maltreatment in Florida are going down each year.
You can make a difference by recognizing some of the potential indicators of child maltreatment.
- The child is constantly hungry and/or has poor hygiene
- The child has unexplained physical injuries
- The child has physical trauma and/or their knowledge of sex is inappropriate for their age
- Abnormal or poor development and/or has extreme anxiety
On average most children who are maltreated are under the age of seven. Younger children can be more vulnerable than others to maltreatment because they are dependent on parents and other childcare providers for provision. Young children may not have the autonomy or ability to defend themselves from maltreatment, causing them to be at a higher risk. On the other hand, as children grow into youth and young adults, they have been taught more on subjects such as safe touch, sex education, health, and gained more self-efficacy. Youth and young adults are more autonomous than children 7 and younger and are able to either defend themselves from or avoid maltreatment. They also are often in contact with a greater number of adults who may notice and intervene on their behalf. This makes them less vulnerable than younger children. In addition, another vulnerable population is children with disabilities. In addition, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect notes that disabled children often have been taught to always obey authority, because care is critical for survival, leaving children to feel their body is not their own. So, when abused, children may believe the caretaker knows and is doing what is best. See something, say something! Children are at the forefront of some of our most vulnerable populations. Child abuse should never happen, and much less should go unnoticed. We can all play a very important role to stop child maltreatment!
To report abuse in Florida call the Department of Children and Families abuse hotline or visit their website: