Child Abuse Facts

The data available on this page was taken from the 2015 Annual Child Protective Services Report, and reflects the most recent data available at this time. 

Each year in Pennsylvania, the equivalent of a grade school classroom of children die of child abuse.

Thirty-four children died from abuse in 2015, four more than the previous year. 

Mothers and fathers were responsible for 44% of all substantiated allegations of abused children in 2015.  Substantiated reports of reabuse accounted for 7% of all substantiated repots of abuse. 

Physical injuries accounted for 31% of the total number of substantiated allegations and ranged from bruises, cuts, and abrasions to broken bones, skull fractures, and scaldings. The majority of the substantiated allegations (50%) were sexual abuse allegations.

Sixty-one percent of the substantiated victims were girls. Thirty-nine percent were boys. The higher number of substantiated reports involving girls is partially explained by the fact that the majority of sexual abuse reports, the most prevalent type of abuse, involved girls. This has been a consistent trend in Pennsylvania.

The number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect is increasing.

About 15 of every 1,000 Pennsylvania children were reported as victims of suspected abuse in 2015, while about 1.6 of every 1,000 Pennsylvania children was substantiated as a victim of abuse. In absolute numbers 40,590 cases of suspected child and student abuse were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015, an increase of 11,317 reports since 2014. Of these, 4,203 cases, or 10%, were substantiated. Sexual abuse was involved in 47% of the substantiated cases.

Child abuse happens everywhere.

Unfortunately, the problem of child abuse is universal. Last year it occurred in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania—urban, suburban, and rural. It can and does happen where we all live. That’s one important reason we all need to be aware and we all need to be prepared to report suspected child abuse.

Anyone can report suspected abuse, but certain people are required to do so.

Mandated reporters are people who are required by law to report child abuse. Generally, these are people who by the nature of their jobs come in contact with children on a regular basis, such as doctors and nurses; health and social service workers; teachers and school employees; law enforcement authorities; and members of the clergy. Mandated reporters accounted for over 35,313 referrals of suspected child abuse in 2015. Schools were far and away the largest single source of reports from mandated reporters.

Child abuse causes many harms, some lifelong.

In the end, child abuse is a tragedy for everyone involved, but especially the victims. Child victims can suffer not only physical harm, but also emotional damage—and may have to live a lifetime with the scars. That’s why it’s so important all Pennsylvanians understand the depth and breadth of the problem and what can be done about it. We are proud of our role in helping to make this happen and in being a partner with community agencies in the prevention of, intervention against, and treatment of child abuse.

Child abuse can be prevented.

Family support programs can help decrease the chances of child abuse happening by addressing some of the specifically risk factors in families. The most frequently cited risk factors are listed below. By attending a family support program, the likelihood of these factors leading to abuse decreases.

  • Vulnerability of the child: PFSA Family Support Programs help to combat social isolation of parents by getting them out and socializing with other parents. This makes their children less vulnerable to abuse.
  • Marginal parenting skills and knowledge: Our programs can assist parents in gaining better parenting skills as well as knowledge about the development of their children.
  • Impaired judgment of perpetrator: Parents who attend groups get input and different perspectives from other parents in the group.
  • Stress: The parents who attend support groups and classes have the opportunity to discuss their stress with other parents and get feedback from them so they know they are not the only ones who are struggling. Group members also use the time in the group to teach and practice stress reduction skills.
  • Substance abuse: Parents are less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs while they are participating in a family support program. Parenting programs are a vital link to substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Insufficient social or family support: The family support program becomes an informal support system for parents.
  • Abuse between parental figures: The group facilitator helps the family gain access to resources in the community to help combat the abuse. The support of the group would also be essential in helping them.
  • Perpetrator abused as a child: This issue may come up during group discussions and parents have the opportunity to talk with each other about how this could affect their parenting. A parenting program can also provide referrals for counseling when needed.

Additional Statistics and Information

2015 Child Protective Services Report (PA Dept. of Human Services)

2014 Annual Report of Child Abuse 

Child Maltreatment 2015 - This report presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during federal fiscal year 2013.

Child Welfare Outcomes 2010–2013: Report to Congress -This report to Congress provides information on the performance of states in seven outcome categories and also includes data on contextual factors and findings of analyses conducted across states.


Safe Haven Act

Act 201 of 2002, also known as The Newborn Protection Act, took effect in February 2003 and was amended in 2014. The law permits that a parent of a newborn may leave the child in the care of a hospital or a police officer or police station without being criminally liable, providing that the following criteria are met:

  • The parent expresses orally or through conduct that they intend for the hospital or the police officer to accept the child, and;
  • The newborn is not a victim of child abuse or criminal conduct.

The parent may provide information about the child’s medical history and any identifying information. The parent is not required to provide this information and will not be asked any questions. A newborn is defined by this act as a child less than 28 days of age as reasonably determined by a physician.

Pennsylvania’s program for newborn protection is known as "Safe Haven of Pennsylvania."

The Act requires that designated hospital staff or police take protective custody of a newborn. If the police take custody, they must ensure that the child is transported to the hospital and placed into the care of a health care provider. The hospital will perform a medical evaluation and any act necessary to care for and protect the physical health and safety of the child. The hospital is also required to notify the county children and youth agency and local law enforcement. The county children and youth agency is to make diligent efforts to notify a parent, guardian or other family member of the whereabouts of the newborn (unless prohibited by court order) and the reasons for the need for protective custody. The county children and youth agency will find a safe and permanent home for the baby. Since 2003, 25 newborns have been relinquished under the Safe Haven of Pennsylvania program. 

A statewide hotline has been established for women in crisis and individuals seeking information. Callers are able to speak with a person regarding the program and to find out the location of the nearest hospital or police station. The hotline number is 1-866-921-7233 (SAFE).

Download the Safe Haven FAQ Sheet

Additional Child Abuse Resources

To learn more about child abuse, visit these websites:

Ways You Can Connect