Editorial: State’s child fatality report heartbreaking

Another viewpoint: Editorial from the South Bend Tribune

The record-high number of abuse and neglect cases that resulted in the deaths of Indiana children chronicled in a new report will capture your attention.
The details provided will break your heart.

The Indiana Department of Child Services report released recently lists the 66 child deaths between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, directly resulting from abuse or neglect.

This represents a steady increase since 2010, when 25 deaths were reported. In 2014, there were 49.

The maddening, unacceptable truth behind the numbers: These deaths were preventable. The report found an increase in the number of fatalities due to a lack of active supervision; specifically, children not being supervised around bodies of water, unsafe sleeping practices and unsafe home heating methods.

Among the 54 substantiated neglect cases outlined in brief and stark terms:

A 1-year-old child drowned, found at the bottom of a backyard swimming pool. The child’s mother was seen in her car in the front yard, talking on her cellphone.

A 4-year-old died from head and neck injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident while riding in the backseat — with only a seat belt around her waist — of a car driven by her grandmother. The grandmother tested positive for alcohol and marijuana.

The 12 fatalities due to abuse include a 1-year-old child who died from blunt force traumatic injury to the head while in the care of the boyfriend of the child’s mother, who eventually admitted to throwing the child with significant force. In another tragic case, a 14-year-old child died from a gunshot wound to the head at the hands of his father in an apparent murder-suicide.

The report found a pattern of stress factors commonly affecting caregivers, with insufficient income and unemployment being a risk factor in 61 percent of both abuse and neglect cases. Substance abuse was a risk factor in 31 percent of abuse cases and 28 percent of neglect. Such information is provided to help in developing prevention, educational and service programs for both affected communities and the state overall.

In a statement released with the report (available at www.in.gov/dcs/files/SFY%202014%20Report.pdf) DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura noted that “Each one of these deaths could have been prevented.” She says the issue is one that the DCS can’t handle alone, urging Hoosiers to call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline (800-800-5556) if they suspect a child is being abused or neglected.

The sad stories in the latest child fatality report may move you to tears. It should also move you to act to help prevent the abuse and neglect of the youngest and most vulnerable Hoosiers.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.