Child Abuse and Neglect

(2006 - 2015)

As rates of child abuse investigations and children receiving out-of-home care have decreased, racial disparities persist.

Along with other adverse childhood experiences, undergoing abuse or neglect in childhood can have lifelong effects. Rates of child abuse and neglect are difficult to estimate because much child abuse goes unreported. In King County, Child Protective Services (CPS), a state agency, responds to reports of suspected abuse involving children.  

Child Protective Services investigations and assessments by race/ethnicity (rate per 1,000 households), King County (2006-2015)


Investigations and assessments:  In 2016, a total of 8,238 households in King Countywere investigated. This has declined from a high of 9,756 in 2007. To control for differences in population sizes, rates are displayed in the chart above.

 In 2015, about 30 out of every 1,000 households in King County were investigated or assessed by Child Protective Services. Over time, disparities in the likelihood of being investigated or assessed persisted. Households of the following racial and ethnic groups were most likely to be investigated or assessed in 2015:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native (145 per 1,000 households)

  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (80 per 1,000)

  • Black/African American (77 per 1,000).

Asian households were much less likely to be investigated or assessed, with only 11 investigations or assessments per 1,000 households.  

Not all reports to CPS are investigated. A report may be “screened out,” or not investigated, if:

  • not enough information is provided;

  • the information provided is deemed inaccurate; or

  • the information in the report doesn’t meet CPS criteria for child abuse or neglect.

When a report is “screened in,” the household may be investigated or assessed for other services. An investigation or assessment does not mean abuse has occurred, but that the case was screened according to legal guidelines and found to warrant further investigation.  

Children in out-of-home care by race/ethnicity (rate per 1,000 children), King County (2000-2016)

Out-of-home care: In King County, the rate of children in out-of-home care declined from 5.72 per 1,000 in 2000 to 3.44 per 1,000 in 2017. During this same period, the number of children placed in out-of-home care declined from 2,234 to 1,440.  Some large disparities by race/ethnicity also decreased over this interval.  Nevertheless, in 2017 the likelihood of being placed in out-of-home care was dramatically higher for children in the following groups:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native (17.72 per 1,000 children)

  • Black/African American (9.58 per 1,000)

  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (8.89 per 1,000)

Children placed in out-of-home care may be living in foster homes, with relatives, or in group homes.

More data about child welfare: You can explore more data related to Child Protective Services through the Child Well-being Data Portal at The default setting for each graph is for Washington State. You can use the menus on the left-hand bar to select King County (also called Region 2 South), as well as to specify demographic groups and time periods. You can download a PDF report summarizing data for King County (rather than interactive graphs) at:

For more context on racial disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system in general, see the Children’s Bureau’s issue brief “Racial Disproportionality and Disparity in Child Welfare:”

For more information on local efforts to address racial disproportionality and disparity, see the Washington State Children’s Administration’s Report to the Legislature on Racial Disproportionality and Disparity in Washington State.


Notes & Sources

Source: Child Well-being Data Portal: Partners for Our Children Data Portal Team. (2018).

[Graph representation of Washington state child welfare data 1/16/2018].