Deaths from child abuse and neglect on the rise in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- For the fourth year in a row, child deaths from abuse or neglect have risen.

State officials say it’s because of two main reasons, unsafe sleeping arrangements for infants and open water dangers from pools or ponds. But authorities also say there are significant underlying contributing factors for each of those.

A new report profiles data from 2015, where the state saw 77 kids die because of abuse or neglect. That’s the highest number FOX59 found since 2003, the farthest that reports are available online.

“It’s really an awareness piece and prevention piece that we want everyone to know about,” said James Wide of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Wide says the report is meant to encourage parents to be more aware of safety.

“That’s why we want to get the report out to let the community know to be vigilant about those issues,” said Wide.

In cases of abuse, data shows the cause of death is almost always head trauma. In neglect cases, asphyxiation is often the cause, which is why DCS said dangerous sleeping arrangements and water are the two leading contributors. The report profiles a number of cases where infants died while co-sleeping with their parents who were either drunk or high on drugs.

The report also profiles numerous cases where kids left unattended drowned in pools, ponds or even bathtubs.

“You look at poverty, you look at substance abuse, [and] those are some of the contributing factors to the fatalities,” said Wide.

Wide says those underlying factors make child fatalities more likely, especially among at-risk populations. He says for parents who may be struggling or feel overwhelmed, they should not be afraid to ask for help.

If you need help or want to report suspected abuse, you can contact the Department of Child Services or Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.