The number of children who died as a result of neglect and abuse “skyrocketed” in 2012, the Department of Children and Family Services found in a end-of-year analysis.
While DCFS did not say just how much the number of abuse and neglect related deaths increased over previous years, the agency said the increases were nonetheless troubling.
According to DCFS figures, 90 Illinois children died as a result of neglect or abuse, with an additionally 60 deaths still under review to determine a cause.
The leading cause -- accounting for 40 deaths -- was suffocation by neglect, which can happen when parents sleep with a newborn child in their bed, the agency said in a release.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the practice, DCFS officials said.
“The death of any child is heartbreaking, and even more so when that death may have been avoided if parents had just followed the warnings of their doctor,” DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin said in the release. “We hope that other parents will learn from these losses and heed the warnings of experts.”
Officials say, in some instances, parents have smothered their children by rolling over on them in their sleep. Some children accidentally suffocate on blankets or by being placed facedown on a mattress.
“Most new moms rely on their own moms for advice, and we need grandmothers to reinforce the message that it is never okay to gamble with a child’s life by sleeping with them in your bed, or falling asleep with them in a chair or couch,” said Clarkin. “As family and friends plan baby showers to welcome new ones into the family, a safe crib or bassinet with no blankets or other dangers needs to be at the top of the shopping list.”
Homicide was the second leading cause of neglect or abuse related deaths, the release states. The agency said 22 neglect or abuse related deaths were ruled homicides.
In many cases family members saw clear warning signs that were never reported to authorities, DCFS officials said. Physical signs of abuse or neglect, patterns of domestic abuse and parents who regularly abuse drugs or alcohol are red flags that family members should be attuned to, the agency said.
“Two-thirds of the reports to our hotline come from mandated reporters like prosecutors, police, hospital staff and teachers,” said Clarkin. “To protect kids, DCFS needs to be contacted for help before there is a 911 call, a child is in the emergency room or the abuse or neglect has been going on for years.”
© Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC