North Dakota child protection services report increased calls for child abuse, decreased number of victims in 2021

(WDTV)
Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 2:33 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - It’s been nearly four weeks since three adults, Rolanda Doyle, Russel James, and Serenity Foots, were arrested in Bismarck for child abuse and neglect after a child died in their care. While Child Protective Services cannot comment on that specific case, Your News Leader reached out to CPS officials to learn more about what’s being done to protect children in North Dakota.

16,907 reports of child abuse were made in 2021, and 1,349 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect. Numbers of reports have increased, but numbers of child victims have decreased in 2021, according to the FFY 2021 NCANDS report.

CPS officials say reports may be up because the population is more vigilant about reporting abuse and because North Dakota shifted to a centralized reporting line in January 2021.

“After they receive the report, they go out and we use what’s called a safety framework practice model. It’s a proven approach that uses standardized tools and decision-making criteria so that we can make some well-rounded child safety decisions and employ intervention strategies with families and children just to support the parents in making positive changes,” said Kirsten Hansen, prevention and protection administrator for Children and Family Services.

The most recent available data on child deaths from neglect or abuse in North Dakota is from 2015-2016. North Dakota Human Services officials say reviews of child deaths and child maltreatment deaths for 2017 have not yet been completed because the panel cannot draft a report until cases are closed.

From 2015 to 2016, seven children, ranging from two months old to nine years old, died from abuse or neglect. Two of these cases had prior reports of child abuse in the home. During that time nine children, ranging from newborn to two years old, nearly died from child abuse or neglect. Five of these cases had prior reports of child abuse in the home.

81% of child deaths reviewed by the North Dakota Child Fatality Review Panel were deemed “preventable.” They say every citizen can play a role in reducing child fatalities.

“There’s some signs of possible abuse that people can notice and will file a report on. That can include bruising, welts, burns, broken bones, any other injury that cannot be explained or even seems suspicious. There’re also those situations of neglect where young children are being unsupervised. There might be some children that appear malnourished. Maybe some environmental concerns,” said Hansen.

The review panel says that they’re concerned with the quality of child death scene investigations. They state: “Many child death investigations do not include interviews with the parents and others who live in the home or who were present in the home at the time of death.”

CPS did not release information on staff workloads.

The State’s Attorney’s office has not yet responded to Your News Leader’s request for comment on the recent child abuse allegations against Doyle, James, and Foots.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, call the statewide toll-free reporting line at 1-833-958-3500.

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