Child deaths in Illinois caused by abuse or neglect are expected to be up sharply when all cases from 2012 are closed. In 2010 and 2011, there were 90 such instances in each year. For 2012, the number is already at 90, with 60 cases near the end of the year still under investigation, according to the Department of Children and Family Services.
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Spokesman Dave Clarkin says the leading culprit is sleep suffocation of children under age 1, producing 40 of the 90 deaths. Clarkin says often, parents sleep in bed with their babies and roll over on them, or they place the children on a sofa, and they turn over and suffocate in the pillows or blankets because they don’t have the strength at such an early age to right themselves.
“We began to see the number of child deaths, particularly from sleep suffocation, rise in 2011, and launched in 2012 a public education campaign to make sure that every parent understands the importance of save sleep,” he said. He said pediatricians give new parents advice on safe sleep for their newborns, but new mothers often are more receptive to advice from their own mothers, who may not be familiar with the proper procedures.
Homicide – the intention infliction of injury that results in death – was the No. 2 cause of abuse or neglect death last year, with 22 instances. Of the 90 cases that have been fully investigates, 69 percent of the victims were under age 1. The deaths were roughly equally distributed among Downstate, Chicago and the suburbs.
The highest child abuse and neglect death toll in recent decades was 102 in Fiscal Year 1989. Clarkin says the 2012 number is poised to exceed that by plenty.