The recent Indiana Department of Child Services report showing 40 children died of abuse in Indiana — five of them in Northwest Indiana — in a 12-month period should cause anyone reading it to shed a tear for those children.
More than that, though, it should prompt heightened attention to new DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura's plans to turn around that troubled agency. That won't come cheap, but it needs to be done.
Four of the Hoosier children who died of abuse or neglect between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011 — the period covered by the new report — were from Lake County. Another was from LaPorte County.
This is the highest number of child fatalities since 2006-2007, when 46 Hoosier children died of abuse or neglect, according to the DCS.
"I think we can all agree that one child to lose their life to abuse or neglect is heartbreaking," Bonaventura said. "Forty children is devastating."
Bonaventura, a former Lake Juvenile Court judge, is no stranger to tragedy. Her task at the DCS is to reduce the number of these tragedies.
She promised a thorough review of DCS policies and procedures and an even closer look at the six of these death cases in which the DCS had prior involvement with the children.
One of them was Christian Choate, the 13-year-old boy whose severely malnourished body was found in May 2011 in a shallow grave in a Gary mobile home park.
It is disturbing that any child should suffer as much as Choate and the other childen who died of abuse or neglect.
Bonaventura promised to work with community leaders and law enforcement to become more proactive in fighting abuse and neglect. The Child Fatality Review Team and the newly created Commission on Children should help in this regard.
The report also drives home once more the failure of the centralized hotline, filtering calls through a call center instead of quickly going to the county where the child lives. This is the first period in which the statewide hotline was in place. Lawmakers and others have sharply criticized that procedure as ineffective or worse.
Indiana already has shown it cares about children. It is up to Bonaventura to bring about the necessary reforms to sharply reduce the number of children who die of abuse and neglect.
This DCS report shows the need to protect Hoosier children is urgent.