(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Forty children in Indiana died from abuse or neglect in 2011, a 60 percent increase from the year before.
That’s according to the newest annual child fatality report from the Indiana Department of Child Services, released Monday in what is Indiana’s official Child Abuse Prevention Month. The department reviewed more than 292 child deaths from Indiana’s fiscal year 2011, varying in causes ranging from medical conditions, drownings, abuse, neglect, and others.
“One child we all agree is heartbreakingly too many, but 40 is devastating,” said DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. “In addition to taking a close look within our own agency about the six children with which we had prior history, we also need to reach back into the communities, and out to law enforcement and community leaders.”
DCS says most of the abuse deaths occurred in low-income families with a history of substance abuse or domestic violence. With six of the abuse deaths, the agency had prior contact with those children or their families.
The report also identified a trend of child deaths caused by a parent’s partner. DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan asks parents to think carefully about who they leave their children alone with.
“When you have a child, and particularly a small child, left in the care of someone with no emotional bond with the child, with low to no parenting skills, and managing multiple stressors, tragedy can happen in an instant,” said Ryan.
Newborns and infants were the victims of most of the 40 deaths, the report found. Of the children who died from abuse, 48 percent were under the age of one. Of the neglect deaths, 38 percent of those children were less than a year old.
“Our infants and toddlers are often isolated at those ages, and there aren’t as many eyes to see them as school-age children,” said Ryan. “And smaller children take a lot of supervision, care and patience—which may be too much to ask of someone with low or poor parenting skills, or dealing with multiple stress factors.”
Indiana’s child abuse hotline took more than 170,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in 2012, compared to 150,000 in 2011. The agency says anyone suspecting abuse or that a child may be at risk should call the hotline: 800-800-5556.
“We need all Hoosiers to remember that they are first responders when it comes to reporting child abuse and neglect,” said Bonaventura. “If you see something, please say something.”
Other numbers and facts from the DCS’ Child Fatality Report:
-Unsafe sleeping conditions was cited as a factor in 82 child deaths.
-DCS filed more than 10,600 child-protection court cases in 2011.
-One of the child abuse fatalities in 2011 occurred in Franklin County, and another in Decatur County.
-33, or 83 percent, of the child abuse or neglect cases had the manner of death listed as homicide. Six were natural and one was natural.
The full report can be found at http://www.in.gov/dcs/index.htm.