The number of investigations into possible child abuse increased last year in Iowa, but the “founded” cases of abuse dropped 3% compared to the previous year. The Iowa Department of Human Services released a report today showing there were nearly 6,800 cases of abuse last year, compared with more than 7,000 in 2009.

Roger Munns is a spokesperson for the DHS. “It’s probably related to the fact that we’re starting to climb out of the recession,” Munns said. “One of the more reliable predictors of child abuse is financial stress on families.”

The 3% decline last year compared to a 14% increase in founded child abuse cases in Iowa in 2009. The report for 2010 shows a majority of abuses – 51% – were inflicted on children under age five.

The breakdown of abuse by category shows the majority of abuses were neglect. “Year after year, the abuse category of neglect – which we call ‘denial of critical care’ – is the one that is most often founded. Eight out of 10 abuses in this state are in that category,” Munns said. “The next most common is physical abuse and last year, that was slightly less than nine-percent.” Munns says in some cases, where abuse is determined to be relatively minor and not likely to happen again, parents are offered counseling and other support services.

The report also found a continuing decline in cases involving sexual abuse. There was a slight increase in the abuse category known as “presence of illegal drugs in a child’s body.” Those abuses are usually determined by drug tests at birth. Munns said the increase in that category is “so small it’s hard to make a conclusion about trends.”

The overall number of assessments for possible child abuse increased slightly, by two-percent. But evidence was found for actual abuse in fewer cases. About two-thirds of all investigations last year were determined to be unfounded.