Children in Indiana are surviving, but they may not be thriving, according to new data released Monday.
The Indiana Youth Institute released their annual KIDS COUNT in Indiana Data Book, which provides information on how Hoosier children are managing. The numbers show the state’s child abuse and neglect rate has risen steadily since 2011. In addition, Hoosier teens report higher levels of dating violence than in many other states.
The book provides information on other key areas such as teen suicide, child poverty and education.
One in ten Indiana high school students have been forced to have sexual intercourse. In comparison, the national average is 6.7 percent.
The data also shows one out of 10 high school students report they are purposely hurt by their partner, the national average is 9.6 percent.
Sandra Ziebold, CEO and executive director of Beacon of Hope Crisis Center, said there is no clear-cut answer as to why Indiana’s teen violence numbers are so high, but it’s important for teens to know what respect looks like in relationships.
“We have to make sure as a society that we are modeling healthy relationships,” Ziebold said. “I think many times teens aren’t aware of what a healthy relationship should look like so maybe they start to model all that they’ve witnessed, could be in their homes.”
One of the many possible aspects for the increase in teen suicide rates could be the increase in teen dating violence.
“When a person is violated through teen violence they feel like their value, there is no value to their life,” said Rosalyn Turcott, Hands of Hope Community Education coordinator. “Because if there was, they would not be treated in such a manner.”
The book shows almost one in 10 high school students attempt to commit suicide, which is above the national average of 8.6 percent.
Child abuse and neglect
In 2015, 17 out of every 1,000 Hoosier children were victims of abuse or neglect and that 47.3 percent of all reported cases involved children between the ages of zero to five.
The increase in reports are concerning, but there is also a benefit in the increased numbers of cases, according to Glenn Augustin, vice president of advancement for the Indiana Youth Institute.
“That’s actually a good thing because to ensure children get the intervention they need if they are being abused or neglected, those reports have to come in so the Department of Child Services can investigate them,” Augustin said. “To see the number of calls going up shows that the word is getting out and adults are taking seriously that responsibility that they have to report cases of abuse and neglect.”
The rise in cases is also attributed to the increase of Hoosiers addicted to drugs like opioids. Augustin said parents can neglect their children if they are concerned about receiving their drugs.
Even though Indiana’s economy is improving, one in five Hoosier children are still living in poverty. More than half of children in single-mother homes and almost a quarter of children in single-father homes face poverty. Both statistics are above the national average. Single mothers earn significantly less than what single fathers make and a larger portion of their income goes to child care.
To reduce the number of children effected, Augustin said certain areas need to be tackled.
“Trying to ensure that parents are ready for the responsibilities of raising a child, that they are aware of the resources that are available to them in their community to help them when they maybe are struggling,” Augustin said. “That they feel empowered or willing to seek out those resources when they need help.”
Ashley Steeb and Ashley Shuler are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.