The 2018 deaths of two children due to neglect in Vigo County were among the 242 child fatalities investigated that year by the Indiana Department of Child Services.

The recently released annual report of child abuse and neglect fatalities included the Vigo County death of a 2-month-old child who died of severe dehydration, and the death of a 3-month-old female due to co-sleeping.

One of those deaths led to criminal charges against a parent who removed a feeding tube in her infant.

Because of confidentiality maintained in the cases, it is unclear if criminal charges were filed in the co-sleeping case.

DCS is required to review all child fatalities involving children younger than age 1 when the child’s death was sudden, unexpected, unexplained or involves allegations of abuse or neglect, and must investigate all fatalities for children age 1 or older when the death involves allegations of abuse or neglect.

“Child abuse or neglect do not discriminate by socioeconomic status,” said Heidi Decker, director of the Vigo County DCS office. “This can happen to any family. It takes communities working together to ensure families that are struggling have what they need. Everyone in Indiana is a mandatory reporter, and we encourage anyone with concerns about a child’s well-being to make a report.”

In 2018, unintentional suffocation due to unsafe sleeping conditions remained a leading cause of accidental child death, the new fatality data shows.

Of the 242 child fatalities investigated, 65 were determined to be a direct result of abuse or neglect. And of those 65, in 52 deaths the victims were age 3 or younger.

The most common causes of death were abusive head trauma, drowning and poisoning/acute intoxication.

Monthly data reported by DCS for 2019 on its website shows Vigo County had 63 substantiated cases of physical abuse. Another 74 cases of sexual abuse were substantiated, and 843 cases of neglect were substantiated. Those cases add up to 980 cases where a DCS investigation determined abuse or neglect of a child did occur.

Provisional statistics from Vigo Circuit Court, which is the court overseeing juvenile matters, also shows that 395 new cases were filed in 2019 for Children in Need of Services. In many CHINS cases, a child has been removed from a home and DCS has intervened due to safety concerns for the child.

Those 395 cases are an increase from the 318 new CHINS cases filed in 2018.

Since 2012, Vigo County has recorded at least one abuse or neglect death of a child each year.

The DCS report looks at several factors in the lives of the children who died.

Most of the victims were injured in their own homes. Biological parents were deemed responsible most often for the child fatalities. And households were a death occurred were commonly home to more than one child.

Among caregiver stressors that played a role in the death of a child, a history of substance abuse was most frequently cited. Insufficient income and unemployment were also common factors.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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