Change Indicator

Child Abuse and Reabuse Rates - Percent of substantiated cases in Pennsylvania

Child Abuse and Reabuse Rates - Percent of substantiated cases

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Why This Indicator Matters

Child abuse and neglect is defined as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, imminent risk of serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation.[1] In Pennsylvania, all reports of child abuse or neglect are either investigated or assessed by Child Protective Services (CPS) or General Protective Services (GPS) depending on the nature of the referral. CPS conducts investigations of cases identified as abuse, such as bodily injury, mental injury, sexual exploitation, serious neglect, human trafficking, or death of a child.[2] GPS, on the other hand, conducts assessments of neglect cases that do not fall under specified categories of abuse and provides services to prevent potential harm of a child. Neglect warranting GPS assistance include abandonment, behavioral health concerns, juvenile delinquency under the age of 10, domestic violence, expulsion or truancy from school, homelessness, and failure to provide basic necessities.[3]

By examining the number of reported child abuse and neglect cases by age group, researchers are able to track longitudinal trends and changes associated with specific age groups of children who are suspected of experiencing maltreatment. Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of child maltreatment include caregiver substance use, mental health issues, and adolescent parenting; child age, health, and developmental status; family violence and parenting attitudes; and neighborhood poverty, crime, and access to high-quality public services.[4] These risk factors not only increase children’s likelihood of experiencing maltreatment, but often worsen the long-term consequences of such abuse and neglect. Maltreatment early in life can lead to physical health problems, stunted development, psychological disorders, diminished cognitive functioning, social difficulties, posttraumatic stress, sexual deviance, adult criminality, substance abuse, and future perpetration of child abuse and neglect.[5] This makes it imperative that all cases of suspected maltreatment in Pennsylvania be reported immediately to ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

[1] United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). What is Child Abuse or Neglect? What is the Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect?

[2] Rizvi, M. B., Conners, G. P., King, K. C., Lopez, R. A., & Rabiner, J. (2022). Pennsylvania Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

[4] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2023). Risk Factors that Contribute to Child Abuse and Neglect. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. Child Abuse and Neglect | Child Welfare Information Gateway

[5] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. Safety and Risk | Child Welfare Information Gateway

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Definition and Source



Reported Cases of Child Abuse includes the reported incidents of suspected child abuse and neglect through the Childline and Abuse Registry.  It does not include General Protective Service reports which include less severe general neglect reports.

Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse includes founded or indicated reports of child abuse and neglect.  It does not include the number of children determined to need general protective services.

Substantiation Rate - calculated by dividing the child abuse reports by child abuse substantiations.

Cases of Reabuse (Repeated Child Abuse) includes children with another substantiated incident of abuse following the first reported incident.

Reabuse Rate - calculated by dividing the reported cases of reabuse by substantiated cases of reabuse.

Data Source

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Annual Child Abuse Report (2006-2014) and Annual Child Protective Services Report (2015 - current) extracted from the ChildLine and Abuse Registry.


Substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect are incidents of abuse that have been determined to meet Pennsylvania's CPS Law.  Following a CPS investigation, a determination is made as to whether the child abuse report is substantiated.  This determination can be made by the county child welfare agency (referred to as an indicated report) or by the courts (referred to as a founded report).

Reabuse - It is not accurate to assume that the victim of repeated abuse is always where a child was a victim of multiple incidents of abuse.  Child reabuse can include cases of previously unreported incidents that become known and recorded during an investigation.  These incidents are registered on ChildLine and handled as separate reports.  A child may also be abused in one county and then move to another county and become a victim of abuse again.  The statistics on reabuse should be understood in this context and they may include overstated data.

Last Updated

April 2024