We want to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect as part of our efforts to ensure that all Vermonters are healthy and safe.
In Vermont, the rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children has increased in the past several years, from a low of 5.6 in 2010 to a high of 8.2 in 2014. In 2015, the rate decreased slightly to 7.8. Increased rates of poverty, substance abuse (particularly opiate use), and family and community violence have been linked to this increase. During the same period of time, the national average was 9.1 to 9.3 maltreatment victims per 1,000 children. Vermont’s slightly lower rate may indicate that Vermont’s investment in child abuse prevention, early childhood services, and comprehensive family supports is having an impact.
However, there is much more work to be done to assure child safety and support vulnerable families. It is anticipated that the rate of substantiated reports of abuse and neglect will increase in the coming months, based on findings from the 2015 Report on Child Protection in Vermont by the Department for Children and Families (DCF). Ongoing child abuse prevention efforts at DCF include intensive family support home visiting (Strengthening Families Demonstration Project), a wide range of anti-poverty initiatives, and increased capacity for substance abuse screening in Family Services Division (FSD) district offices through contracts with community partners. In addition, Integrating Family Services within the Agency of Human Services seeks to bring state government and local communities together to ensure holistic and accountable planning, support and service delivery aimed at meeting the needs of Vermont’s children, youth and families.
AHS is currently using this tool to assess our agency contribution to reducing the rate of child abuse and neglect in Vermont. One Agency cannot turn the curve alone; there are many partners who have a role to play making a difference.