Author Meredith Colias-Pete
Nearly 60 children died in Indiana from abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2016, according to state report.
One child died in Lake County from abuse, while another died from neglect in LaPorte County, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services Child Fatality Report, covering July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.
In August 2015, then-Gov. Mike Pence announced more than $7 million would be used to hire 113 more caseworkers following a 26 percent increase in the number of children entering the state’s troubled child welfare system.
Pence and other officials blamed the state’s opioid crisis for the spike. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued the agency the month before on behalf of caseworkers for illegally heavy caseloads — in one case, nearly 2.5 times higher.
The state’s latest figures show a 23 percent drop in child fatalities in 2015-16 — to 59, compared to 77 deaths reported in 2014-15. DCS had open case files — i.e. prior contact — for 9 of the 59 children, the report said.
Biological parents most often contributed to the cause of death — 61 percent in abuse cases and 70 percent of neglect cases, the report said. Aggregating factors were low incomes, substance abuse and unemployment.
Nearly all of Indiana’s 24 abuse cases involved head injuries (22), followed by beating and kicking (7) and gunshot wounds (2). The 35 neglect cases involved car accidents, strangulation and drowning, the report said.
Abuse cases most often involved young parents and children — with 42 percent of perpetrators were aged 20 to 24 and 67 percent of victims were under 1. Nearly 60 percent of children in neglect cases were 1 or younger.
The report provided a snapshot on individual cases including the child’s age, cause of death, circumstances, if charges were filed and prison sentence if a caretaker was convicted. It omits names and towns.
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