It Might Really Be That Bad
Abuse and neglect may contribute to far more child deaths than previously acknowledged, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report from the state's Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman found that seven of every 10 children who died in the state's child welfare system in 2004 suffered from abuse or neglect that may have contributed to their deaths.
State officials quickly disputed the findings of the ombudsman's office, which reviewed the deaths of 87 children who were involved with the child welfare agency in the year before they died.
"It's very easy for anyone to review a case and say in their opinion that this death is caused by neglect," said Tom Stokes, child fatality program manager for the Children's Administration. "You could argue back and forth on a neglect case. It can be based on someone's opinion."
All 87 children – including 17 children in Eastern Washington – were either in the care of the state's Children's Administration or had received services from the agency in the year before their death. Abuse or neglect may have played a role in 61 of the deaths, according to the report.
The deaths include homicides, suicides and accidents, among others. Eleven children died by homicide, and 10 children killed themselves, according to the report.
Sixty-two percent of the dead were boys. More than half were not yet a year old, according to the report.
But the report suggests that abuse and neglect played a greater role in the children's deaths than the official findings alone would indicate.
In a review of 53 deaths of children age 2 or younger, the office found 8 children died from physical abuse and 11 died from neglect.
But it reported that another 25 children died who had histories of abuse or neglect that may have contributed to the fatalities.
State officials contested the ombudsman's determination that abuse or neglect contributed to so many deaths. Meinig said the histories could not be discounted when reviewing the deaths.
Stokes said the official state tally relies on the findings of medical examiners and coroners. According to those numbers, 11 died from homicide. Another 28 children died from accidental or natural deaths; the cause of death for 20 children was undetermined.
In its 108-page report, the ombudsman's office said it found several gaps in fatality investigations, particularly in rural counties served by coroners.
The Ombudsman hasn't put the report on their website yet; when they do I'll try and link to it. UPDATE: Here it is.
Read more here, if any.