Deaths from child abuse, neglect increase in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — A report has found an increase in the amount of children dying from neglect and abuse in Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Child Services report said nearly 80 children died from neglect or abuse in fiscal year 2015. That’s up from nearly 70 deaths in 2014 and almost 50 deaths in 2013.

The report said the fatalities were caused by gunshot wounds, drug misuse, beatings and unsafe sleep practices. The study found head trauma to be the main cause of deaths in abuse cases while asphyxia was the primary cause in neglect deaths.

Nearly half of the deaths were homicides and a third of them were accidents.

Department Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said every death is preventable and that the state publishes the fatality report to raise awareness.

“We continuously work with other state agencies and local child advocates to address the continuing pattern of multiple stress factors that lead to child fatalities,” she said.

The report found that poverty and drug use were factors in many of the deaths. Insufficient income or unemployment were factors in nearly 95 percent of neglect cases and almost 75 percent of abuse cases. Substance abuse was in a factor in almost 50 percent of neglect cases and nearly 20 percent of abuse cases.

Children three years or younger were the primary victims, making up 85 percent of abuse deaths and nearly 75 percent of neglect deaths.

“Our infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable of all our children,” Bonaventura said. “And younger children demand active supervision, attention, care, and patience — which may be difficult to give if someone has low or poor parenting skills, or is dealing with multiple stress factors, including substance abuse.”

Of the nearly 80 deaths, the department had prior history with four of the children.