INDIANAPOLIS -- A newly-released report from the Indiana Department of Child Services shows the agency is finding more adults responsible for abusing and neglecting children.
DCS assessed 239 child fatalities in state fiscal year 2014 (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014), and in 66 of those cases, the agency substantiated child abuse or neglect against the caregivers.
In comparison, the agency substantiated child abuse or neglect in 49 deaths in SFY2013 and 34 deaths in SFY2012.
DCS director Mary Beth Bonaventura took office in March 2013, so this child fatality report is the first that covers a full year under Bonaventura’s leadership.
“Each of these deaths could have been prevented,” said Bonaventura. “As summer begins, it is important to re-emphasize water safety and to never leave a child unattended in a hot car, ever.”
The newly-released annual report also shows more people are calling the DCS hotline to report allegations of abuse and neglect. View the entire report below:
DCS spokesperson James Wide told Call 6 Investigates he believes people are becoming more vigilant about recognizing and reporting suspect child abuse and neglect.
REPORTS TO STATE HOTLINE
• 2014- 198,684
• 2013- 187,465
• 2012- 177,542
The 48 page report details children dying in horrific circumstances, mostly at the hands of their biological parents.
Drownings, gunshots, fires, asphyxia, overdosing, and car crashes are among the top causes of child abuse and neglect deaths in Indiana.
Abusive head trauma was the top type of deadly child abuse, records show.
Lack of supervision was the primary cause of child neglect deaths in Indiana, according to the report.
Fourteen children drowned in state fiscal year 2014, the same number that drowned in SFY 2013.
For example, a 1 year old boy drowned in a pond by his family’s home while playing with a sibling.
His mother was on the phone and not watching the children, according to the 2014 report.
DCS found the mother responsible for neglect and lack of supervision; however, prosecutors did not filed criminal charges against the mother.
Prosecutors did not file criminal charges in the vast majority of the child neglect cases listed in the state report, including drownings, carbon monoxide poisoning, and unsafe sleep conditions.
To win a criminal case, prosecutors must prove the allegations “beyond a reasonable doubt” compared to DCS cases which follow a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which means the allegations are more likely to be true than not true.
Nine children died due to a negligent sleep environment, according to the 2014 state report.
In one example, an eight month old baby boy was found not breathing in an adult sized bed with the mother.
The mother admitted to drinking the night before, and her BAC level was .28 the morning of the incident.
No criminal charges were filed in the case, which was ruled a sudden unexplained infant death with unsafe sleeping conditions as a contributing factor.
In another example, a one month old baby died after the mother admitted she may have rolled over the infant while in bed with her.
The mom also admitted to using methamphetamine.
DCS found the mom responsible for child neglect, but prosecutors did not file criminal charges.
View the facts about child fatalities from SFY 2012 - 2014 below:
The Indiana Department of Child Services has faced criticism for failing to heed warning signs prior to child abuse and neglect deaths.
In the child abuse and neglect deaths in SFY2014, DCS had a prior history in only 6% of the cases, according to the report.
In comparison, DCS had prior involved with 14% of the deaths in SF2013 and 21% of the fatalities in SF2012.
“Our infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable of all of our children,” said Bonaventura. “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.”
To report child abuse or neglect, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556