Out of respect for some families, not talking about child abuse or neglect might seem like the right thing to do. Unfortunately, it clearly is not the right thing to do if a child is endangered. Neighbors, teachers, relatives and passers-by all have a stake in raising a child in a safe environment.
The federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in February of last year reported a spike in child abuse fatalities across the nation. “The bulk of the increase,” reported WFIU-FM, “occurring in two states, Indiana and Texas, where child-welfare agencies have been in disarray.”
According to HHS, 70 Hoosier children died from maltreatment in 2017, more than doubling the 34 deaths in 2016.
That number is close to the one the Indiana Department of Child Services reported last month.
DCS said it examined the deaths of 314 Hoosier children and found 65 of them, between the ages of one month and 15 years, died from abuse or neglect in 2017.
Worse, 13 of the children who died had prior contact with DCS caseworkers.
For child advocates, this is simply unacceptable. The Department of Child Services reports poverty and drug use contributed to many of the child deaths. It was just four years ago that then-Gov. Mike Pence said Indiana would hire more than 100 child abuse and neglect caseworkers.
But the job of improving Indiana’s death rate in child abuse and neglect cases is just beginning. Socially, Hoosiers should promote child abuse prevention and dispel the myth that Indiana is a safe place to raise a child simply because of its geography. No place is safe when those who abuse or neglect children are not held accountable.
The culture of raising children has to be improved in Indiana. There should be more talk and action from everyday Hoosiers. Each one of us has at least some interaction with children.
“We know that children who are seen regularly by caring adults such as teachers, day care providers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, home-based workers and nurses are less likely to be abused or neglected,” Rachel Tobin-Smith, former executive director of Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, told us. “We all can help protect our little ones.”
It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child. In Indiana’s case, it will take a state government and residents committed to raising children in safer environments.