New data: Child-abuse deaths are on the rise
Newly released federal figures show a sharp rise in child-abuse fatalities in the U.S., with the bulk of the increase occurring in two states – Indiana and Texas – where child-welfare agencies have been in disarray.
According to a report released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 1,700 fatalities resulting from child maltreatment reported in fiscal year 2016, compared to 1,589 the previous year – a 7 percent increase. The figures encompass data from every state but Maine, as well as from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Accounting for most of the increase were Texas, where fatalities jumped from 162 to 217, and Indiana, where the death toll more than doubled from 34 to 70.
“It breaks my heart for the kids in this state right now,” said Juvenile Judge Marilyn A. Moores, whose Indianapolis courtroom has seen a surge in child welfare cases due to the opioid epidemic.
“Traditional systems of early warning are overwhelmed. And parents, because of addiction, aren’t seeking intervention because their kids are going to be removed,” she added. “It allows kids to die. It’s a fact.”
Long festering problems in Indiana’s child-welfare system exploded into public view in December, when the director of the Department of Child Services resigned with a scathing letter that accused Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of making management changes and service cuts that “all but ensure children will die.”