Building Community, Building Hope

Building Community, Building Hope is a video series showing real-world, collaborative solutions to the problem of child abuse and neglect.

Take Action Conversation Guide [PDF]

Use Building Community, Building Hope to start a conversation about what’s working to improve child well-being in our country

Show the film, Building Community, Building Hope:

  • To your organization’s Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers. Have an open dialog about how what you are doing lines up with the kind of good ideas shown in the film.
  • To your community or national partners. Talk about how your collaboration can keep building on what's working to increase your impact.
  • To families. Create an opportunity to hear how their experiences reflect or differ from what the film portrays, and what gives them hope for a better future.
  • At your Conference or in your community. Open a conversation about what collectively you are all doing well, and what you can do together to keep improving on behalf of and with the families who are struggling?
  • To funders. Draw the parallels between the challenges and successes the film portrays and what you are doing. Find out what resonates for them in order to better position your agency or collaboration for future funding requests.
  • To policy makers. Provide them with a look at the human side of child maltreatment, and follow up with data on how what you are doing makes a difference. How this film came to be made—and where we hope to go from here.

Key messages the film delivers:

  • Child maltreatment is preventable. We need to not only react to crises but also intervene with positive supports long before situations escalate. There are good examples around the country where agencies are moving research into practice and forging partnerships that work to prevent child maltreatment.
  • Blaming parents doesn’t work; supporting them does. With the right supports, parents and caregivers can succeed at changing their behavior and nurturing their children. We are starting to work on what’s right in families, and what they have to build on, rather than coming in and telling them what’s wrong.
  • Community context matters. Families don’t exist in a bubble—they are affected by community factors around them. Housing, healthcare, jobs—all these societal factors really matter in understanding the types of stresses that families encounter. Strategies that address community conditions are essential.
  • We must work across the boundaries that separate us. Cross-agency and cross-discipline collaboration works. Partnerships—including authentically partnering with parents—are key to tapping the assets that exist in every community and system that can make the difference for families that are struggling.
  • We have a ways to go, but we’re on the right track. The research is clear and examples abound about what’s working to protect children and promote their well-being, but... We need to shift our focus: for every federal dollar spent on prevention, over seven dollars is spent on treating the consequences. And the issue of neglect needs more attention, but is rarely discussed.

Video Series Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) [PDF]

Is the film available for downloading?

Yes. To download the films, go to the Download Videos page. The size of each of the files is provided. Please note that download speed will vary depending on your internet connection.

Are there tools available to help guide us and how best to use the film?

Yes. A discussion guide is located at the top of this page. We encourage you to show the film and have an open dialogue with your organization's Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers; your community or national partners; families, funders, and policy makers. Take this opportunity to explore what collectively you are all doing well, and what you can do together to keep improving on behalf of and with the families who are struggling. Send us a note at to tell us how it went!

How were the featured programs selected?

The Children's Bureau provided recommendations to the filmmakers about several innovative programs that were directly or indirectly funded in whole or part with federal funding. Inclusion of the programs in the film does not imply an endorsement of the program.

Will there be more videos coming out in the near future?

The Children's Bureau is currently in the process of developing three additional films in the Building Community, Building Hope series. These films will carry forward the themes of the first film, but focus on primary prevention.

For more information, contact Rosie Gomez,

Key Facts About Child Maltreatment in the United States [PDF]

What is the definition of child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse and neglect are defined in both Federal and State laws. The types of maltreatment defined include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Details about how your state’s laws define the conduct, acts, and omissions that constitute child abuse or neglect that must be reported to child protective agencies can be found in the Child Welfare Information Gateway's Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect.

How many U.S. children are abused or neglected each year?

For 2013, there were a nationally estimated 679,000 victims of abuse and neglect, resulting in a rate of 9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population. This rate only reflects children for whom a state determined that at least one maltreatment event was substantiated or indicated.[1]

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, the data cited is from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Children's Bureau (CB). (2015). Child maltreatment 2013. Available from

How many children die each year due to abuse or neglect?

An estimated 1,520 children died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2013. This national estimate was based on data from State child welfare information systems, as well as other data sources available to the States.

Approximately how many allegations of maltreatment are reported and receive an investigation or assessment for abuse and neglect each year?

During 2013, Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies received an estimated 3.5 million referrals involving approximately 6.4 million children.

Is the number of maltreated children increasing or decreasing?

The number of victims decreased 3.8% from 2009 to 2013.

Who were the child victims?

Approximately one-fifth of the children reported to CPS were found to be victims.

What percentage of children reported to CPS were "screened in" for follow-up action?

The youngest children are the most vulnerable—about 27% of reported victims were under the age of three. Victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 23.1 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.

What are the most common types of maltreatment?

Neglect, at 80%, is by far, the most common form of maltreatment. Physical abuse, at 18%, is the second most common form of maltreatment.

What are the long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect?

While many children are resilient and can recover from maltreatment, there are significant, widespread long-term consequences for their behavior and physical and psychological development.[2]

[2] For more information about the long-term physical, psychological, behavioral, and societal consequences of child abuse and neglect, see Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from https://www.

What does child maltreatment cost?

Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that child abuse and neglect prevention strategies can save taxpayers $104 billion each year.[3] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime cost of child maltreatment and related fatalities in one year totals $124 billion.[4]

Indirect costs, including the long-term economic consequences to society because of child abuse and neglect such as increased use of the healthcare system, juvenile and adult criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic vioence, drive this number much higher.

[3] Prevent Child Abuse America. Our mission and vision. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cost of child abuse and neglect rival other major public health problems. Available from

What contributes to child abuse and neglect?

Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect; physical and mental health problems; marital conflict; substance abuse; domestic or community violence; and financial stressors such as unemployment, financial insecurity, and homelessness, can reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.[5]

  • Parental substance abuse and child maltreatment. Research has demonstrated that children of substance abusing parents are more likely to experience abuse—physical, sexual, or emotional—or neglect than children in nonsubstance abusing households. According to one of the few studies available, between one-third and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance abuse. It is conservatively estimated that 9% of children in this country (6 million) live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs.
    While the link between substance abuse and child maltreatment is well documented, it is not clear how much is a direct causal connection and how much can be attributed to other co-occurring issues. National data reveal that slightly more than one-third of adults with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental illness.[6]
  • Homelessness and child maltreatment. The federal government estimates that more than 1.6 million U.S. children, many under the age of six, live on the streets, in homeless shelters, in campgrounds, temporarily doubled up with others, or are otherwise without a stable home.[7] While homelessness itself is not indication of maltreatment, stress related to being homeless as well as some of the factors associated with it put children at greater risk for neglect in areas such as health, education, and nutrition.[8]
  • Domestic violence and child maltreatment. Research indicates a 30–60% overlap of child maltreatment and domestic violence. Estimates of the number of children who have been exposed to domestic violence each year vary. Nearly 30 million children in the United States will be exposed to some type of family violence before the age of 17.[9]
  • Poverty and child maltreatment. While most people in financial need do not maltreat their children, poverty can increase the likelihood of maltreatment, particularly when poverty is combined with other risk factors such as depression, substance abuse, and social isolation.[10]

[5] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Preventing child maltreatment and promoting well-being: A network for action 2013 resource guide. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

[6] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Parental substance use and the child welfare system. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

[7] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Letter to Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program grantees, November 30, 2015.

[8] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2006). Child neglect: A guide for prevention, assessment and intervention. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

[9] Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Domestic violence and the child welfare system. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

[10] For a collection of research on poverty and child maltreatment, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway's Poverty and Economic Conditions. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

What prevents child abuse and neglect?

Focusing on protective factors is a critical way to prevent child maltreatment and promote child and family well-being.

Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that reduce or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being of children and families. These factors help ensure that children and youth function well at home, in school, at work, and in the community, today and into adulthood. Protective factors also can serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.

Research has found that successful interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure child and family wellbeing. There is growing interest in understanding the complex ways in which these risk and protective factors interact within the context of a child’s family, community, and society to affect both the incidence and consequences of child abuse and neglect.[11]

[11] To learn more about protective factors, see Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2015). 2015 Prevention resource guide: Making meaningful connections. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from

For more information, contact Rosie Gomez,