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Child abuse reports in US surge after high-profile tragedies

Zymere Perkins (left) was bludgeoned to death on Sept. 26, 2016 and Jaden Jordan died on Dec. 4, 2016 after being in a coma and left with a fractured skull.

Reports of child abuse in the United States have increased following the tragic deaths of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins and 3-year-old Jaden Jordan in late 2016, a report says.

The Independent Budget Office (IBO) said Tuesday that reports of investigations of child abuse, and Family Court hearings have also gone up after the two widely-publicized abuse cases.

Perkins was bludgeoned to death with a broomstick allegedly by his mom’s boyfriend on Sept. 26 and Jordan died on Dec. 4, 2016 from injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of his mother's abusive boyfriend days after he had been beaten into a coma and left with a fractured skull.

The number of child abuse reports rose by 20 percent, from 19,980 in fiscal 2016 to 23,981 in fiscal 2017, although the number of cases increased by only 7 percent.

Spending at the Administration for Children’s Services  (ACS) also soared to $127.8 million in fiscal 2017 — up from $110.9 million a year before — an increase of 15 percent that largely went to the salaries and OT of agency investigators.

ACS staffers also lodged thousands more petitions of abuse and maltreatment in Family Court — 14,207 in 2017 in comparison with 9,566, a rise of 52 percent.

However, the IBO found that the courts did not respond to the public scrutiny through separating children from their families more often, with the share of petitions leading to foster care placement actually going down in 2017.

Instead the judges found ways in which one parent often cared for the child or children, under what is known as court-ordered supervision, according to the IBO.

“As has happened after prior deaths of children known to ACS, Zymere Perkins’ and Jaden Jordan’s deaths in September and December of 2016 led to more abuse and maltreatment investigations, in part because of a spike in reports from mandated reporters. Their reports are also more likely to be substantiated,” the report concluded.

“It is also important to stress that the share of abuse or maltreatment petitions that results in foster care placement have declined over the years, while the share of petitions that results in court-ordered supervision have remained relatively constant. This implies that Family Court judges have not changed how they handle abuse and maltreatment petitions in response to the public pressure that follows high-profile deaths of children known to the child welfare system.”

A similar report released in February showed a sharp rise in child abuse fatalities in the US, with the bulk of the increase occurring in two states — Indiana and Texas — where child-welfare agencies had been in disarray.

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