On April 1, 2010 President Obama proclaimed April National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In his statement he noted that all children should be protected from all forms of abuse.
Obama went on to say in his press release that protecting children is a community responsibility, not just the domain of parents and caregivers. He said,
Parents, guardians, relatives, and neighbors all share a responsibility to prevent these devastating crimes, and our government plays a critical role as well.
Data for 2008, the most recent year for which child abuse data are available, indicate a multi-year decline in both the number and rate of child abuse victims, but fail to account for most of the abuse that has occurred since the economic downturn began in the Spring of 2008. This leaves a full 18 months of abuse during the downturn unaccounted for. This incomplete data indicate that around the time the downturn began 6 million children were reported as abused, and nearly 800,000 were substantiated by various child protective services agencies. Even without complete data, Carmen Nazario, HHS assistant secretary said, as part of his statement:
Although we are encouraged by the decrease in child maltreatment, the results show too many children still suffer from abuse and neglect, and we have not yet [tallied] the full impact from the economic situation.
The nearly two year delay in the compilation of child abuse data leaves policy makers in a perpetual state of limbo, continually guessing what has happened in the past year and a half. It is worth noting that the data Obama and Nazario refer to pertain only to new cases of abuse that occurred during the 2008 calendar year. Victims of abuse by priests, for example, that happened years ago, are not captured in these data.