The Department of Child Services recently released the Child Fatality Report for 2014 and in LaPorte County, we lost 3 children due to abuse and neglect.
As we mourn the deaths of these innocent lives, we must acknowledge the societal issues that are linked to these deaths: low income, substance abuse and domestic violence.
In 2014, the number of children living in poverty in Indiana rose from 26.9% in 2013 to 28.9% in 2014, according to the Kids Count data. It should not be a surprise that the number of child abuse and neglect fatalities related to low income has increased from 41% in 2013 to 61% in 2014.
The data regarding the substance abuse risk factor in child fatalities correlates with the increase of child abuse and neglect cases related to substance abuse and opiate use – a jump from 31% in 2013 to 59% in 2014.
The Department of Child Services acknowledges that the report reveals a number of societal issues that are linked to almost every one of these cases and that the pattern of stress factors points to a larger and more widespread concern than DCS can address alone. You can read the entire report at http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/SFY%202014%20Report.pdf.
Social service agencies in LaPorte County have been discussing these issues for several years and we have made progress in creating new agencies for the homeless and unemployed, provide parent training and advocacy and mentoring programs. We need everyone working together on these issues – including the private sector. Business owners can help by supporting volunteerism in the workplace to allow for employees to become advocates, mentors or become volunteers for an agency improving the lives of people in LaPorte County.
The need for services for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers has skyrocketed. At the end of June 2016, there were 96 children on a waiting list who are waiting to be appointed a Court Appointed Special Advocate, and an additional 16 children were removed from their homes the week of July 11. Four hours a month can change a child’s life.
For more information on how to help, visit LaPorte County Family Advocates at www.lpfamilyadvocates.com or call 324-3385.
Karen Biernacki, CEO
LaPorte County Family Advocates