More than 60 2012 death investigations are still pending. (Photo By Flickr user Thaneworks)
By The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says neglect and abuse killed 90 children in the state last year and almost half were infants who died in unsafe sleeping conditions.
Department spokesman Dave Clarkin said Thursday 29 deaths occured in central and southern Illinois, and the total could rise. More than 60 death investigations in 2012 are still pending.
"We're so alarmed and deeply concerned by the numbers," Clarkin said. "We encourage folks to call our hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE if they suspect a child is being harmed."
Clarkin said 40 of the children were infants who suffocated while sleeping with parents, with blankets or on their stomachs. All of those practices are dangerous.
Clarkin said the department has worked hard to warn young mothers but now needs to try to reach grandmothers. He says young moms overwhelmingly go to their own mothers for parenting advice.
"We began last year with a public awareness campaign to make sure every parent understands the risks posed by suffocation," Clarkin said. "If they don't follow the advice of their doctors, the American Academy of Pediatrics and safety experts can make sure your child has a safe sleeping environment."
Homicides were the second-largest category of deaths. Twenty-two of the neglect and abuse deaths were homicides. He also added that inadequate supervision accounted for 1 in 6 of the deaths.
"Unsupervised kids can get caught in a fire, drown in a pool, or wander out and get struck in traffic," Clarkin said. "It's important to remember that with toddlers especially, you can't take your eyes off them for a minute. You don't want to risk your children while you answer your cell phone."
Zach Dietmeier contributed to this story. Zach can be reached at email@example.com.