INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An alarming increase in child abuse and neglect cases is likely the result of the drug epidemic in Indiana, according to child advocates.
April has served as Child Abuse Prevention Month since 1983. Child advocates at the Indiana Youth Institute are hoping families and Hoosiers will come together to help some of the most vulnerable victims.
According to Kids Count data, 27,000 cases of child abuse were reported across the state of Indiana in 2016.
Over the last 5 years, Indiana has seen a 65% increase in reports of child abuse cases. Many of those cases are due to the impact of parents abusing drugs. More than half of the children removed from their homes in 2016 is due to parents abusing drugs.
"The drug component is something that manifests itself through all of those," explained Indiana Youth Institute VP, Glen Augustine. He added, "when a parents focus is on getting their next fix and not on taking care of their children, you’re going to see that increase in abuse and neglect cases."
Kids Count data breaks down numbers of reported abuse by county.
In Marion County, more than 5,000 cases of neglect were reported in 2015. Data shows more than 460 cases of physical abuse were also reported, as well as more than 440 cases of sexual abuse.
While Marion County does have the highest population, Augustine said those numbers could also be high because of trends that show children in poverty tend to more often be victims of abuse and neglect.
"We have more areas of concentrated poverty in Indianapolis," Augustine said.
The impacts of child abuse can be life-altering, not only physically, but mentally. Advocates said children with parents that are "mentally present" are more likely to have developmental issues.
“"It could be just neglecting the interactions they need to have with their child for that healthy development to happen," Augustine said.
There are a few things you can do to help. If you or a parent you know needs assistance, you can sign up for a free parenting class to help become more equipped to handle the challenges of caring for a child. You can also apply to become a volunteer for CASA by becoming a court appointed advocate for children going through difficult cases.
Every adult in Indiana is a mandatory reporter for suspected abuse and neglect. You can call anonymously at 1-800-800-5556.
For a breakdown of child abuse and neglect statistics by county, click here.
Click here for resources from The Indiana Youth Institute.