Indiana reports rise in deaths of children from abuse and neglect

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INDIANAPOLIS – In just a year, 40 Hoosier kids died from abuse and neglect, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Child Services.

The numbers, released each year, come during national Child Abuse Prevention Month. Along North Meridian, a thousand pinwheels spin as a reminder to the community.

“(They represent) the joy that we want every child’s childhood to represent,” Sharon Pierce, director of The Villages non-profit, said.

Pierce also runs the group Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. She knows as well as anyone that ever year, dozens of Hoosier kids die from abuse and neglect.

“I think the numbers today even affirm our resolve to prevent child abuse from even occurring in the first place,” Pierce said.

Of the 40 deaths, 68 percent were from abuse and 32 percent from neglect. Abuse deaths included 20 cases of head trauma, nine attributed to beating and kicking and another nine from Chronic Battered Child Syndrome.

Of the neglect deaths, causes ranged from access to firearms, accidental poisoning and even two children locked in closets.

“Forty children (dying) is devastating,” Director of the Department of Child Services Mary Beth Bonaventura said.

The Department asked that everyone do their part to help protect kids. Pay attention and reach out if you need help or know someone who might.

“It’s a sign of strength as a parent to reach out for help,” Pierce said.

Also watch for warning signs, stressors the department said played into the deaths. Three-quarters happened in homes under financial hardship, nearly half were tied to substance abuse and a third to domestic violence.

“There’s no picture of what a child abuser looks like. … It speaks to how strong the safety net in our community needs to be,” Pierce said.

To report abuse, call the state hotline at 800-800-5556. Or, for help parenting, call 1-800-CHILDREN.

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