Abuse, neglect deaths of children rose in 2021

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Indiana Capital Chronicle

INDIANAPOLIS — Sixty children died from abuse and neglect in 2021, a report issued Friday by the Indiana Department of Child Services found. That is up from 50 in 2020.

The agency investigated 271 child fatalities in which abuse or neglect was suspected to be a factor but 22% were found to be from caregiver maltreatment.

Of those, 22 were due to abuse, and 38 were due to neglect. In 40 (67%) of the 60 fatalities, the victim was 3 years old or younger.

“This finding demonstrates a consistent trend (nationally and in Indiana) that young children are at the highest risk of abuse or neglect,” a press release said.

Allen County recorded the state’s highest number of child fatalities (11) caused by abuse or neglect.

Fifteen of the 60 victims (25%) included in the report were previous victims of substantiated abuse or neglect, meaning law enforcement and child protection agencies knew of the families and children beforehand. Two of those 15 had history only in other states, not Indiana.

“The death of any child is a great loss for the families and communities,” DCS Director Terry Stigdon said. “We need to be able to learn from this report and make meaningful and lasting change to increase awareness of the risk factors that lead to these tragedies.”

Improper sleeping arrangements, including co-sleeping, remain a leading contributor to infant fatalities. Other common risk factors listed in the report were substance abuse, failure to supervise a child (especially near a body of water) and driving while intoxicated.

The victim’s biological parents were often deemed responsible for the child fatalities detailed in this report, accounting for 53 (73%) of the 73 alleged perpetrators. Some cases cite multiple perpetrators as responsible for the death of the same child. In some cases, caregiver stressors were determined to play a role in the death of a child. Substance abuse, insufficient income and unemployment were frequently cited as stress factors among caregivers.

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