Dept. of Child Services Releases 2018 Child Fatality Report

(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) investigated 242 child deaths in 2018 as required by state law and determined 65 were caused by the direct result of neglect or abuse.

In 52 of the 65 fatalities (80%), the victim was 3 years old or younger. This finding demonstrates a consistent trend – nationally and in Indiana – that young children are at the highest risk of abuse or neglect.

According to the report, in Lawrence and Monroe counties, there was one child in each county that died from abuse. In Jackson and Orange counties, there was one child in each county that died from neglect.

Ten of the 65 victims (15%) included in the report had prior substantiated history with DCS.

Most common causes of death:

  • Abusive head trauma: 16 deaths (25%)
  • Drowning: 8 deaths (12%)
  • Poisoning/acute intoxication: 8 deaths (12%)

DCS is legally required to review all child fatalities that fit the following criteria:

  • Children under the age of 1 when the child’s death was sudden, unexpected, unexplained or involves allegations of abuse or neglect.
  • Children age 1 or older when the child’s death involves allegations of abuse or neglect.

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

Consistently, the annual DCS Child Fatality Report cites unsafe sleeping conditions as a common factor contributing to neglect-related deaths.

The primary cause of death:

  • Asphyxia – 7
  • Drowning – 8
  • Exposure – 3
  • Fall or crush – 1
  • Fire, burn or electrocution – 2
  • Malnutrition/dehydration – 2
  • Motor vehicle and other transport – 4
  • Other infection – 1
  • Other medical condition – 3
  • Poisoning, overdose or acute intoxication – 8
  • Weapon, including body part – 26

Historically, the report has examined data reported during the state fiscal year. In 2019, Indiana law was revised to require the report to cover the calendar year. An addendum covering the six-month period between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, is attached to this year’s report. The addendum details 26 abuse- or neglect-related deaths; 135 deaths were investigated during that time.

Director Terry Stigdon

“We have an obligation to learn from these deaths and determine what changes need to be made in policy, practice or legislation to protect children,” Director Terry Stigdon said. “This report is difficult to read, but it highlights what is needed in our communities to help children. We must confront what endangers our children in order to make the difference all children deserve.”

DCS and the Indiana State Department of Health work together to promote best practices for keeping children safe while sleeping. Experts encourage parents and caregivers to remember the ABCs: Children should sleep alone, on their back, in a crib. Learn more about safe sleep practices here

The full 2018 fatality report can be found here.