A new state report concludes that child abuse has declined in Iowa the last two years. Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says that "echoes" a national trend.
"It’s too early to raise the flag of victory and declare that we’re on a downward trend, but I can tell you that since the early ’90s the trend has gradually been steeper, going higher and higher in just raw numbers of abused kids," Munns says. "We now have two years of going the other way and it’s heartening."
The Department of Human Services investigated over 23,000 cases of alleged child abuse or neglect last year. That’s down two percent from the previous year. About 80 percent of the cases involve neglect.
"Neglect — we call it denial of critical care — is cases where the child is under the supervision of a person who is either incapable of doing it or the kid is actually in danger, but nothing dangerous happened," Munns says. In many cases, children were being neglected by a parent who was high on drugs or drunk.
Just over half of the cases involved babies, toddlers and preschoolers — children who were under the age of six.
"Kids that are five or under are particularly vulnerable not just because they have less physical strength and verbal ability, but because they aren’t seen by as many people," Munns says. "When you get to school, you have a lot more people who can see a child and can determine if the child’s being abused."
Investigators concluded there were just over 6000 cases of "founded" child abuse in Iowa last year and the perpetrators were placed on the child abuse registry. Another 1800 cases were classified as "confirmed," which means the perpetrator’s name was not put on the child abuse registry because investigators determined the abuse was isolated and unlikely to happen again.
Some cases involved more than one child. The report issued today shows that in 2008, state officials investigated cases in which 11,000 children were abused or neglected.