DCS 2019 fatality report exhibits slight lower in deaths |

INDIANAPOLIS – According to an annual report from the agency, the Indiana Department of Child Services reported 61 deaths from caregiver abuse in 2019, slightly fewer than the 65 recorded in 2018.

Unsafe sleep arrangements, mostly sleeping together, continued to be the leading cause of infant deaths. In 2019, 11 sleep-related deaths were attributed to neglect.

DCS examined a total of 276 child deaths attributable to suspected neglect or abuse. This is a slight decrease from the 2018 report with a total of 242 investigations.

While Lake and Madison counties reported the most deaths from neglect or abuse in 2018, Marion County, the state’s most populous county, topped the list with 13 deaths in 2019.

Child advocates are struggling during the pandemic not only to continue their role in protecting children, but also to keep volunteers, workers and teachers safe and healthy.

“We had to back off our visits a bit because many of our lawyers are volunteers … some of them are elderly,” said Annette Craycraft, executive director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in east central Indiana.

Because older people are particularly at risk of developing COVID-19, CASA has reduced the number of face-to-face visits, but continues to have weekly check-ins and monthly face-to-face visits.

“We want to make sure we keep them [caregivers] safe too and the child safe. We have had children with COVID, some very serious. That’s why we want to protect them too, ”said Craycraft.

43 of the 61 cases occurred within the victims’ own four walls, leading to the question of how COVID-19 and isolation affected the number of cases. With reports on the 2020 deaths pending, it’s too early to speculate or comment, said Noelle Russell, DCS assistant director of communications.

However, in the published data, DCS reports a decrease in calls to the Indiana Childline for child abuse and neglect. However, the department doesn’t necessarily believe that this means a decrease in abuse and neglect.

“When school is in session, education professionals regularly top the list of reporters on the child abuse and neglect hotline,” Russell said. “Every time educators are less directly connected with children (e.g., during summer vacation or when schools don’t give personal lessons), we see a corresponding drop in their reports.”

CASA’s Annette Craycroft repeated her comments.

“That was one of our concerns for those of us who work locally to stand up for children and make sure they are protected and cared for,” she said. “Our largest reporting agency[ies] are the schools because they see these children so intensely every day.

“You see the changes firsthand when the kids come in and act differently or, you know, bruise or something else happens. So these are our greatest reporters. “

A goal of the DCS Annual Report is to “raise awareness of perennial problems that lead to the tragic loss of Hoosier children in the hope of stimulating community action”.

Terry Stigdon, director of DCS, said in a statement: “We owe it to our communities to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a child. This report is used each year to provide information on policies, practices, and laws aimed at protecting Hoosier children. “

Craycraft offered one last word of urgency as the pandemic continues.

“We asked the community to be vigilant. Keep your eyes open If you are a neighbor and notice something special, pay attention. Relatives, watch out, ”said Craycraft. “When you see something that is alarming, sometimes people hesitate to contact you because it is scary to them and they don’t want to interfere. That’s why we always tell people that your report is confidential. “

The child benefit hotline for DCS is 800-840-8775, and the child abuse and neglect hotline is 800-800-5556.

Bekah Eaker is a reporter for, a news website operated by journalists from Franklin College.

Comments are closed.