Drug epidemic behind Indiana's shocking rate of child abuse and neglect

They are our future, the next generation.  Our children. And yet, according to new numbers from the Indiana Youth Institute, they're not doing very well.

New statistics released today show that Indiana is seeing an increase in the amount of cases of kids who are abused and neglected. 

The reason?

"More than 50% of those cases involve drugs. Some kind of substance abuse," says Candy Yoder, the President and CEO of Child and Parent Services in Elkhart.  

She says it's a problem that's continuing to grow across the state.

"If parents are caught up in their addiction issues, and are only paying attention to where they get their next fix, children's needs go unmet," Yoder explains. "So babies don't get fed. Babies' diapers don't get changed."

It's a shocking surge of child abuse and neglect cases.

In 2011, there were 12 per 1,000 kids in all of Indiana, who were abused or neglected.  Specifically, St. Joseph County saw nine per 1,000, and Elkhart County saw eight.

Fast forward four years later to 2015, and the numbers grew.

The state saw an increase of 17 kids per 1,000 children.  Elkhart County had almost nine cases, and St. Joseph County had 19.

Elkhart County has one of the lowest number of cases in the state.

Yoder says, it's because of programs like CAPS, that help families keep a safe, health home.

"All of that impact together helps keep kids safe," she explains. "Children are less likely to be abused or neglected in Elkhart County, than elsewhere in the state, because of it's preventative efforts like this."

James Pippin, the Regional Director of Indiana Department of Child Services agrees.  

He told ABC57, preventing abuse and neglect from happening, is a priority.  

It all comes down to using community resources.

"Any type of service provider that we have, teaches parents how to be good parents, and teaches parents how to raise their kids without abuse or neglect," says Pippin.

But Pippin and Yoder say, it takes a village.

"Every citizen has a role to play in this. We can all reach out to our neighbors and family members who have children, who are struggling, and that can make a difference," Yoder adds.

But the community's assistance doesn't stop there.  Programs like CAPS, and services like DCS, need people to alert them if they suspect anything.

"If something doesn't feel right, make a report, let somebody know," says Pippin. "It gives us cause of concern to really start looking into what's going on and what can we do."

To file a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

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