INDIANAPOLIS | Northwest Indiana was home to five of Indiana's 40 children who died of abuse or neglect between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011, a state report released Monday shows.
All five local children died of abuse-related injuries, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services report. Four of those children were from Lake County, and the fifth was from LaPorte County, the report shows.
No Porter County children were listed as having died from abuse or neglect during that time period.
Among those mentioned in the report was Christian Choate, the 13-year-old whose severely malnourished body was unearthed in May 2011 from a shallow grave in a Gary mobile home park.
In creating the report, state officials reviewed circumstances surrounding the deaths of 292 Indiana children — some of whom died from various causes including medical conditions, drowning, unsafe sleeping conditions, abuse or neglect, DCS officials said during a news conference Monday in Indianapolis.
DCS' annual child fatality report analyzed the abuse- or neglect-related deaths of 40 Indiana children, six of whom died in households that had prior substantiated history with Child Protective Services, according to the report.
That is the highest number of child fatalities in Indiana since a report covering July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, when 46 children died of abuse- or neglect-related injuries, the agency reported.
“I think we can all agree that one child to lose their life to abuse or neglect is heartbreaking. Forty children is devastating," DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said Monday. "This agency is going to take a closer look at our own agency, our procedures and our policies. We're going to take a closer look at the six children with which we have prior history to determine what went wrong in those cases so we can avoid that in the future."
Bonaventura said DCS also will work with community leaders and law enforcement to become more proactive in fighting abuse and neglect. She said the agency will send the report to the Child Fatality Review Team and newly created Commission on Children for their review.
DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan said the report is the first to include implementation of the statewide hotline, which he said allows the agency to more easily collect and analyze data. The hotline has been heavily criticized by legislators and children's advocates as dangerous and ineffective.
The DCS report released Monday analyzed how the children died, who was responsible, who investigated the deaths, which stress factors were involved and the ages, ethnicity and personal details of both the children and perpetrators.
Nearly 70 percent of the perpetrators were biological parents of the children whose deaths they caused, according to the report.
Officials cited unemployment, low income, substance abuse and domestic violence as stress factors in the homes in which children died of abuse or neglect injuries.