Research conducted around the world demonstrates that children and youth with disabilities are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect than those without disabilities. In 2012, JDC-Ashalim and the Haruv Institute convened an inter-organizational forum to address the needs of children with disabilities who are subjected to abuse and neglect. One of the issues that emerged was the lack of data in Israel about the size of this population and the extent to which abuse and neglect are more prevalent among children with disabilities than among children without disabilities. The forum asked MJB to conduct a review of the literature and to attempt to answer these questions, based on existing data in Israel.
The present report includes a review of literature from around the world regarding the extent and characteristics of child abuse and neglect among children with disabilities. The literature shows that the rates of abuse are higher among children with disabilities and that they also suffer more severe abuse. To assess the situation in Israel, 13 governmental databases of services dealing with children with disabilities, or with children subjected to abuse and neglect, were examined. Three of these databases provided data that were sufficient to calculate estimates of the relative rates:
The data of the National Program for Children and Youth at Risk on children subjected to abuse and neglect showed that 25% are children with disabilities, while only 9% of all children are children with disabilities. Thus, the risk is 2.8 greater.
Similarly, the data from the Child Protection Service of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and Services showed that children with disability were 2.2 times more likely to be reported to child protection officers due to severe neglect and abuse.
The data from the Service for Child Investigations and Special Investigations data also showed that children with intellectual disability or disabilities on the autistic spectrum were 3.5-4.8 times more likely than other children to be questioned by child investigators about incidents of abuse or neglect.
Thus, the analysis showed that, as in other countries, children with disabilities in Israel are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect than other children. The findings were discussed by Ashalim’s professional committee and will serve policymakers in improving the data about children with disabilities and in expanding and adapting services to meet the needs of these children and their families.
The study was commissioned by JDC-Ashalim and funded with its assistance.