TOLEDO - Tama County ranked 11th in Iowa in cases of confirmed child abuse in 2012. In 2013, the ranking dropped to 63rd. These numbers come from a recently released report from the Iowa Department of Human Services for the latest statistics.
And even though the number of reported cases dropped by 22 in number from 83 children in 2012 to 61 in 2013, Jana Enfield, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services in Marshalltown, cautions the number is still significant.
She points to the figures which show just more than 45 percent of the reported number of incidents involved children ages birth to 5.
But why the drop?
"We may never know," said Enfield, adding the closing of the Tama County Human Services office in Toledo in 2010 and the related drop in direct services may be a factor.
Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren agrees with Enfield the drop may be related to the closing.
Confirmed Child Abuse Cases*
2011 - 90 children
2012 - 83 children
2013 - 61 children
Percent of confirmed cases
children ages 0-5 years
2011 - 50.0 percent
2012 - 38.6 percent
2013 - 45.2 percent
Rate of Child Abuse
2011 - Tama County = 22.5/1,000 children; State average = 17.6/1,000 children
2012 - Tama County = 20.8/1,000 children; State average = 17.4/1,000 children
2013 - Tama County = 14.1/1,000 children; State average = 17.3/1,000 children
Rank in Iowa
2011 - Tama County = 25th highest rate of confirmed child abuse
2012 - Tama County = 11th highest rate of confirmed child abuse
2013 - Tama County = 63rd highest rate of confirmed child abuse
* Source: Iowa Department of Human Services
"We no longer have social workers living in Tama County and the one investigator residing in the county no longer does only Tama County cases," he said. "It may be my imagination, but my sense is folks from other counties are less likely to find, confirm or recommend further investigation in 'close call' situations if it will save drive time and the problem or issue is outside 'their world.'"
The Tama County Human Services Office in Toledo was one of a number ordered closed by then-Director Charles Krogmeir and Gov. Chet Culver in July of 2010. Tama County is now served from a DHS office in Vinton.
Linda Rosenberger, executive director for Tama County Health and Home Care, said the numbers are "good news for Tama County."
Her office has been behind several efforts aimed at preventing abuse of children for a number of years.
"Our Tama County SKIP (Supporting Kids in Prevention) Coalition is the local community partnership for protecting children, which is a statewide child abuse prevention initiative. Since SKIP was initially organized in 2005, we have collaborated with other child service agencies and schools to conduct activities and promote programs which we hope have not only increased community awareness of how to prevent child abuse, but also have strengthened parents and families with skills to reduce the risk of child abuse," she said.
Rosenberger noted Health and Home Care has offered parenting classes in the county for the past six years.
"The participation and responses of the parents attending the classes have been very positive. We hope the SKIP presence in Tama County has contributed to the declining child abuse statistics," she said.
"Without checking law enforcement records and somehow comparing them with the child abuse stats, my bet is the closure of IJH is the reason for the drop," Heeren said.
"Generally if an IJH resident was charged with assault or some other delinquent act, the resident often 'countered' with a child abuse allegation.
"We can talk about the annual loss of $10 million to the Tama-Toledo economy from the state appropriation; but people do not realize how many family members stayed in hotels and ate meals during visits, social workers who traveled to Tama County and ate meals while investigating the constant reports of child abuse by juvenile home residents."