National data from our partners at the Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT project shows the proportion of young children experiencing maltreatment has grown by 11 percent between 2004 and 2012. In 2012 alone, nine children out of every 1,000 across the country were confirmed victims of maltreatment. This translates to more than 600,000 children nationwide – 40 percent of whom are under age 5.
So how does Pennsylvania fare in this national perspective? The commonwealth actually has seen a slight decline in the proportion of children under age 5 experiencing maltreatment over the last few years. These young children make up about 18 percent of all children in Pennsylvania who experienced maltreatment in 2012, versus 40 percent nationwide.
This variation likely has something to do with how Pennsylvania has defined child abuse. Our definition has been less stringent than many other states, so what constituted maltreatment in other states might not have been classified as maltreatment here. But with new child protection laws going into effect in Pennsylvania, these data trends may change. Some of the ways Pennsylvania strengthened its definition of child abuse are particularly focused on protecting very young children from abuse. For example, forcefully shaking, slapping or striking a child under the age of one will now constitute child abuse (beginning in December 2014).
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