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Report shows drop in Iowa child abuse cases

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 12:39 p.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — There was a slight drop in the number of Iowa children abused or neglected last year, according to a state report released Monday.

The report by the state Department of Human Services shows more than 11,600 children were abused or neglected in 2012, a 1 percent decline from 2011.

It’s unclear what contributed to the drop, though the department said in its news release that the rate of abuse can rise or fall based on the economy. Officials say reported abuse tends to decline as the economy improves.

Nearly 80 percent of all cases were considered neglect, according to the report. It means a caretaker’s action or inaction puts a child in harm’s way. Officials said common examples of neglect are parents incapable of supervising a child because drug or alcohol abuse impaired judgment.

Nine percent of abuse was physical, according to the report, and 4 percent was sexual.

The report said more than 8,800 of all cases involved perpetrators who were later placed on a child abuse registry. The rest of the cases were considered minor and not likely to repeat.

Department spokesman Roger Munns said the child welfare system is needed because of people who are unprepared to raise children.

“It would be a utopian society if there wasn’t any abuse,” he said.

Other details from the report show a continuing trend that about half of all abused or neglected children are 5 years old or younger. There was a slight increase in the number of abuses that involved the presence of illegal drugs in a child’s body.

Some examples included newborn babies.

Overall, state social workers made nearly 29,000 assessments regarding reports of abuse or neglect. About two thirds were considered “unfounded.”

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