Iowa’s Department of Human Services today (Monday) released the annual report on child-abuse statistics. D-H-S spokesman Roger Munns says its summary already has influenced the agency’s policies. In almost half the cases when a child-abuse case has been found worth looking into, the children involved are five years of age, or younger. It underscores a decision made in the redesign of the child-welfare system, to use age as one of the factors in deciding to offer the agency’s services. Those are services like counseling and drug rehab for anyone in the family who can benefit. Beginning next month, in every case where there’s a “founded report” involving a child under six, the family will be offered services, or the option to go to court. The overall level of abuse in calendar-year 2004 was flat from the previous year, in contrast to the 2003 report which showed a very sharp increase in reported cases from the year before. While it’s too early to tell if this is a trend downward in child abuse, he says over the last decade all the categories have steadily been rising up till now. As usual, the largest category of abuse is neglect, or “denial of critical care,” which made up 68-percent of all the agency’s cases. The next-largest category, physical abuse, accounted for 14-percent of cases and sex abuse, which continues to decline, makes up 6-percent. Drugs caused a lot of problems for the caseworkers. There were 1,700 cases of children found with illegal drugs in their blood, 200 more than the year before, and of those, two-thirds were under age six and 20-percent were under age one. That means, he explains, they were born with illegal drugs in their systems. As more law-enforcement agencies report their problems are fueled by methamphetamine, the DHS has noted cases where that’s a factor. Manufacturing a dangerous substance in the presence of a child was noted in 299 cases, compared with about 400 the previoius year — but Munns says “This does not mean that we’ve conquered the meth problem by any means.” Instead, most cases influenced by meth appear in that category of Denial of Critical Care. Narrowing the focus on the most helpless, the agency will make sure its most urgent response is in cases where the youngest kids may be at risk.
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