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Department of Child Services releases child fatality report

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – The Indiana Department of Child Services released Wednesday the state’s latest child fatality data and the numbers are alarming.

According to DCS officials based on the 2014 state-fiscal report, there’s a need for increased safety awareness – especially for younger children.

Donna Avolt, the Tippecanoe County coroner, said she has seen several cases where infants have died after co-sleeping with a parent.

“An infant death is truly a devastating tragedy for everyone and we want to erase that,” said Avolt.

In total, DCS reviewed 239 child death cases during the time frame ranging from a variety of different causes. In many cases, officials found children 1 year and younger were the primary victims.

“We have to be as adults and in our community, [we] have to look out for our most vulnerable,” said James Wide, the DCS deputy director of communications.

DCS also compiled a report for 66 child deaths stemming from abuse or neglect.

Coming in behind Marion and Lake counties, Tippecanoe County ranked No. 3 in the state for the highest occurrence for abuse and neglect fatalities.

To combat additional deaths, DCS has been working with first responders in ongoing campaigns to raise child safety awareness.

Wide also adds that just in the past couple years, DCS has increased the amount of case managers to take on reported cases of neglect and abuse. But it’s not just DCS, parents and caretakers need to take responsibility.

“We’ll do what we need to do to keep children safe,” Wide said. “But the reality is that is probably not the long-term answer, we need to be on the front end of this.”

Wide said the public can play its part by reporting neglectful or abusive activity to the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 800-800-5556.

“If you see something, say something,” Avolt said. “The same as if you saw your next door neighbor dealing drugs, you would call law enforcement. If you see that a child is truly being abused, either verbally or physically, call 911.”

To view a full version of the report, click here.