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The Cost of Child Abuse in Louisiana

Between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, the State of Louisiana contracted for 13.4 billion dollars worth of services for citizens. If you search every word and phrase of the Louisiana Division of Administration’s Office of State Procurement’s Annual Report of Professional Services Contracts for the Fiscal Year 2019-2020, you find only eight instances of the phrase “Child abuse.”

The total spent by Louisiana on contracts for Child abuse prevention was $247,404. The average value of the eight contracts was $30,926. The largest contract was for $61,135, and the smallest contract was for $8,000.

What does Child abuse cost?

The estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal Child abuse is $210,012 in 2010 dollars. (Adjusted for inflation from 2010 to June 2021, the cost becomes $263,326.46). The lifetime cost of just one victim of Child abuse includes $32,648 in Childhood health care costs; $10,530 in adult medical costs; $144,360 in productivity losses; $7,728 in Child welfare costs; $6,747 in criminal justice costs; and $7,999 in special education costs.

Child abuse is expensive.

It is significantly more expensive if a Child dies. The estimated average lifetime cost for a death from Child maltreatment is $1,272,900.

A good explanation of the costs of Child abuse is available in The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implication for Prevention. See Fang, X., Brown, D. S., Florence, C. S., & Mercy, J. A. (2012). The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention. Child Abuse Negl, 36(2), 156-165.

How many Children are we talking about?

In 2019, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received 52,862 reports of abuse and neglect through Louisiana’s Child Abuse Hotline: 1 (855) 452-5437.

DCFS served 7,016 Children in foster care during 2019 and provided services to 3,494 families in their homes. The 2019 DCFS budget for the Division of Child Welfare Services was $221,653,434.

The following uses squishy numbers, but the message is clear.

$221,653,434 divided by 7,016 children in foster care is about $31,592 per Child in 2019.

In the past decade, Louisiana has served 70,000 children in foster care.

70,000 Children times $31,592 per Child equals $2.2 billion per decade that Louisiana spend on services to Children in foster care.

If 2019/2020 is a typical year (I have not yet looked at other years), then multiplying the $247,408 spent on preventing Child abuse by ten years indicates Louisiana spent about $2,474,040 on Child abuse prevention in the past decade.

Divide $2.4 million into $2.2 billion, and you get 0.00111, which indicates Louisiana has invested about 1/1000th of the cost of providing Child welfare services into preventing Child abuse. (Obviously, 1/1000th is a minuscule effort to prevent Child abuse.)

These are big numbers, so how do we get a handle on them?


For perspective, imagine you purchase a $30,000 vehicle and drive it for 10 years. During that decade, imagine that you will spend 1/1000th of your vehicle’s total cost on preventive maintenance.

How much would you spend? Well, not much because 1/1000th of $30,000 is only $30.

Over 10 years, you will spend only $3 per year on preventive maintenance!


Unfortunately, it corresponds to what Louisiana spends on preventing Child abuse.

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