Children should never be just numbers in a report. Especially when those numbers are about kids who have died or suffered serious injury as a result of abuse or neglect. Every child deserves to be safe from harm, yet the sad reality is that many kids are not.
Last week the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) released their annual report on child fatalities and near fatalities due to abuse and neglect. The report looks at several factors surrounding the death or near death of children in our Commonwealth.
What we know:
- The most recent numbers are not final. There were 9 fatalities and 41 near fatalities due to abuse or neglect confirmed for State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2016—however there are likely several pending cases not included in these numbers, and historically the number increases significantly as cases are resolved.
- The youngest children are the most likely to die from abuse and neglect. In the last five years, children age three and younger made up 71% of the fatalities and near fatalities due to maltreatment in the Commonwealth.
- The perpetrators of abuse and neglect are most often parents. The data shows that 79% of the identified perpetrators had a parental relationship with the child.
- In the last five years, the majority of children who died or nearly died were cases of substantiated neglect. Neglect includes an impaired caregiver, lack of supervision, malnutrition or starvation, medical neglect, and overdose, among others.
- Family risk factors play a significant role in child fatalities and near fatalities. In SFY 2015 and SFY 2016, family violence was present in 48% of cases where a child died or nearly died due to abuse and neglect. Substance abuse and mental health are also family risk factors identified in child abuse and neglect cases, including fatality and near fatality cases.
Children dying or nearly dying from abuse or neglect is 100% preventable. No child should ever be included in this report. In fact, this report shouldn’t even be necessary. Yet every year we, as a system, are failing our children and families. And every year, there are children dying from abuse or neglect.
Several solutions exist to help keep kids safe. DCBS needs more resources and capacity to step up in a greater way to prevent children from dying or being injured from abuse. But they can’t do it alone. We all need to play a role in preventing abuse. When parents are struggling, they need supports to help keep their families safely together, including through family preservation programs. And, as members of this Commonwealth, we all have the duty to keep children safe from harm and report when we suspect or witness child abuse and neglect.
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The Face It® Movement is a 10 year initiative with the vision that all children in Jefferson County will be free from abuse and neglect by 2023. Led by Kosair Charities®, Face It began in 2012 in response to the public outcry against the increasing number of child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth. Face It was officially launched in April 2013 and includes best practices in child abuse prevention, community engagement, and promoting effective policies to improve the child welfare system.