A child advocacy group says there’s been a “disturbing” increase in the number of child abuse cases reported to the state. The latest figures from the Department of Human Services show a 21-percent increase in child abuse cases from 2002 to 2003. Steve Scott is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. Scott says there have been significant increases in abuse related to the presence of illegal drugs in a child’s body, which means the baby’s mom ingested drugs during pregancy, and a significant increase in neglect, or failure to provide basic care to a kid. Scott isn’t sure if the increase in drug abuse cases is due to an increase in drug use — or an increase in the tests for illegal drug use. He says it’s probably something of both. Some surveys show an increase in the use of drugs, and Scott says there’s also been an increase in the testing of parents to see if they’re using illegal drugs. Scott says either way, the numbers overall are not good. He says “they are disturbing. ” Scott says there’ve been some increases in child abuse in the past, but he says they’ve been more benign, linked to increased reporting. He says these numbers show some underlying problems related to drug use that’s leading to neglect. Scott says there are other factors, such as an increase in unemployment. He says all this is happening at a time when the state has less money to devote to preventing abuse. Scott says the state needs to stay focused on helping children. Scott says policymakers should look at investing in children’s welfare as seriously as they look at investing in their education. He says the governor and legislature and others have made efforts to focus on the problem with methamphetamine, but he says clearly we’re still seeing the unfortunate effects from that drug. PCA Iowa’s analysis of the child abuse rates can be read in its entirety www.pcaiowa.org