Casey Anthony Trial Highlights Indiana Child Abuse

High-Profile Case Raises Child Abuse Awareness

Child advocacy agencies in Indiana are using the Casey Anthony verdict to push for more awareness when it comes to child abuse and neglect in the state.

In the three years since Anthony was accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in the much-publicized case, the Indiana Department of Child Services has received more than 300,000 reports of child abuse and neglect.

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Healthy Families is a state-funded program aimed at helping parents develop skills. Sharon Pierce, an employee, said she believed Casey Anthony could have benefited from the program, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

"I wish every child we serve and every vulnerable child had this much investment in them and this much attention. We will use the case to mobilize and really make Caylee a legacy, if you will," Pierce said. "If this young mother had had somebody coming into her house, the end of the story could have been different, whether the death was accidental or whether it was intentional."

Some programs that help prevent child abuse and neglect have faced budget cuts. Healthy Families lost $2.7 million in 2010.

In 2009, 38 children died in Indiana as a result of abuse or neglect, Pierce said.

Sandy Runkle-Delorme, with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said that when there are budget cuts for children's services, the children and their families suffer the most.

The organization is also using the Casey Anthony story to spread its message.

"We look at any opportunity to raise awareness. If this is another spring board, we'll certainly use it, in terms of educating," Runkle-Delorme said.

The number of child abuse and neglect reports is on the rise, Runkle-Delorme said.

In May 2009, DCS received 9,776 reports of abuse. It received 11,370 reports of abuse in 2010 and 14,242 reports by May 2011.

Advocates said getting involved doesn't just mean calling the abuse hotline but reaching out to families who may be struggling.

"Our goal is to have things prevented in the first place, for our community to come together around children so there won't be a report in the first place," Runkle-Delorme said.

A representative of DCS said that no one was available to meet with 6News on Wednesday to discuss child abuse and neglect, but the organization sent an email response.

"What the (Casey Anthony) case does emphasize is that the community needs to be aware of children who may be victims of abuse and neglect," wrote DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth.

To report child abuse or neglect, contact the DCS Hotline at 800-800-5556.