INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is right in the middle of states when it comes to children’s safety, security and education, but abuse and neglect, poverty and infant mortality continue to be problem areas for the state.
The local picture is mixed. On the plus side, the number of children living in poverty beats the state average. On the negative side, abuse and neglect rates are higher in northeast Indiana than the statewide average.
The 2018 Kids Count report, released Monday, ranked Indiana 28th overall for child well-being, the same ranking the state held last year. The annual report compiled by the Indiana Youth Institute organizes data from national and state sources and also scores all of Indiana’s 92 counties on different metrics for economy, health, safety and education.
“When we look into the data, we learn that some of our children face bigger and greater challenges and barriers to success,” said Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. “We all benefit when Indiana’s children are healthy, safe, well-educated and economically secure. We want the information in this book to spark conversations and inform solutions throughout the state so that all of those in Indiana’s next generation can reach their full potential and grow into tomorrow’s leaders.”
Similar to last year, the Kids Count report highlights abuse, poverty and infant mortality as problem areas for Indiana.
Opioid abuse is a nationwide problem and one that is creating bad situations for many Hoosier children. Indiana’s rate of substantiated child abuse or neglect cases rose to 18.6 per 1,000 in 2016, up from 17.1 per 1,000 in 2015. Those rates are higher in DeKalb County (26.5), Noble County (19.7) and Steuben County (19.0), but lower in LaGrange County (10.4).
Calls to the state’s abuse and neglect hotline climbed 11 percent in 2016 and another 9 percent in 2017. The rates of children in foster care in Indiana has increased sharply. About 10,800 children were in foster care in 2011, but that total increased 58 percent to about 17,000 in 2015.
Indiana’s child poverty rate has been falling steadily as the state has recovered from the Great Recession, but still about one-fifth of Hoosier children are living in poverty at 19.1 percent. Indiana’s figures also show a race gap, with black (44.2 percent) and Hispanic (30.9) children far more likely to live in poverty than white children (13.9) percent.
Although it continues to be a statewide problem, northeast Indiana is doing relatively well in the child poverty metric and all are below the state average. DeKalb and LaGrange counties rank in the top quartile, with rates of 13.2 and 13.6 percent, while Noble County’s rate is 15.8 percent and Steuben County is at 16.7 percent.
On infant mortality, Hoosier children are 24 percent more likely to die before their first birthday than infants nationally, with Indiana ranking 41st in the nation. In 2016, 623 Hoosier infants died.
It’s another area where Indiana has a race gap, with an infant mortality rate of 14.4 infant deaths per 1,000 for blacks and 9 per 1,000 for Hispanics, compared to 6.4 per 1,000 for white children.
Eleven children total died before their first birthday in Noble, DeKalb and LaGrange counties, with Steuben County having no infant deaths. For all other children age 1-19, there were 17 deaths total in the four counties.