The Value of Prevention

About Prevention logoUnchecked, child maltreatment can affect the way the brain functions and cause bodily changes that lead to poor physical and mental health throughout an individual’s lifetime. Preventing child maltreatment before it occurs is more prudent than treatment of child abuse and neglect after the fact. Prevention programs and strategies are an effective, efficient, and economical means to combat the human and financial toll exacted by child maltreatment.

Child Maltreatment Prevention

  • Reduces loss of productivity and well-being in adulthood: The cost of loss of productivity in adulthood, as a result of child maltreatment, was found to total $144,360 per person in 2012.[1]
  • Reduces health care needs and costs: In 2012 lifetime health care costs for non-fatal victims of child maltreatment were estimated to be $45,028 per individual.[2]
  • Increases educational resources: The trauma of child maltreatment can contribute to learning and behavioral issues in school. This disruption impacts the child who has experienced the trauma as well as classmates, teachers, and the school climate. The needs, resulting from the impact of child maltreatment on a child, require a disproportionate amount of educational resources. In 2012 almost 5.5 million dollars of special education costs were a result of child maltreatment.[3]
  • Helps to save and improve lives: In 2014 child maltreatment resulted in the death of 1,580 children in the United States.[4]  Adults who experienced child maltreatment tend to have a substantially reduced lifespan, up to twenty years shorter for those who have experienced six or more adverse childhood experiences. [5]

Treatment is essential for those who have perpetrated or been victims of child maltreatment in order to stop the behavior, promote healing, and ensure child safety. However, treatment is also resource intensive. Addressing those contextual factors or caregiver characteristics that elevate the risk for child maltreatment to prevent abusive behavior before it can occur is much more effective in terms of the number of individuals that can be reached. The number of lifetime resources used per individual is also significantly less for prevention than for treatment.

Financial Benefit of Prevention Programming

Child maltreatment not only exacts a high price from its victims, it also extremely costly to the average taxpayer, both in terms of lost human potential and real dollars. The total lifetime expense for just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment in the U.S. is estimated at $124 billion. 


Knowing that even the most thorough child maltreatment prevention system will impact only a portion of the potential cases of child abuse and neglect, the key question becomes "Does prevention programming produce effects quickly enough to be worth the up-front costs?" 

E. Michael Forester, researcher and first author of the report on the Triple P System population trial, upon further analysis of the information gathered in the study, reported that “the cost of delivering Triple P universally would be recovered in a single year by reducing by just 10% the number of families in which child abuse and neglect occurred.”