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Indiana abuse, neglect deaths spiked in 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – The number of Hoosier children who died from abuse and neglect jumped to 40 in fiscal year 2011, state officials reported Monday.

That is a 60 percent spike from 25 deaths in fiscal year 2010. In 2009 the number was 38.

The jump occurred during the first year of implementation of the oft-criticized centralized state abuse and neglect hotline, but the Department of Child Services said the increase is unrelated.

Allen County reported three abuse deaths, compared to none the prior year. Whitley County also had a neglect death.

“I think we can all agree that for one child to lose their life to abuse or neglect is heartbreaking,” said DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. “Forty children is devastating.”

Of the 40 deaths, 27 were from abuse and 13 were from neglect. Head trauma was the primary cause of death.

DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan said a key finding is that 25 percent of the deaths came at the hands of an intimate partner unrelated to the child, usually the mother’s boyfriend.

“We ask parents to give careful consideration to whom you leave your child with,” he said.

Ryan also noted a number of societal issues that are usually present in the cases, such as low income, substance abuse and domestic violence.

Six of the 40 children had prior contact with the DCS system. Ryan said those cases were reviewed, and no mistakes or errors by the agency was found.