Note the subtle acknowledgement here: young male caretakers and babysitters are a major reason why child-abuse deaths are jumping in the State of Florida. When are we going to stop being politically correct, and recognize that, statistically speaking, a baby is safer with Mom, or Grandma, or Auntie than some 19-year-old boyfriend/baby daddy with a drug rap? Given that males in general tend to dominate violent crime, this isn't exactly rocket science. It's just a statement of fact, whether true believers in "gender equality" want to believe it or not.
Report: Florida child-abuse deaths up 21% in 2008
By Amy L. Edwards and Bianca Prieto, Orlando Sentinel
8:43 p.m. EST, January 6, 2010
Tyler Rodgers died just two months shy of his second birthday — killed by a bullet fired from his father's gun.
The Ocoee toddler, who was shot in March 2008, was one of 201 children who died as a result of child abuse that year in Florida, according to an annual report released Wednesday.
Tyler is part of a startling new statistic: Child-abuse deaths in Florida spiked about 20 percent in 2008 from the previous year.
The leading cause of death for 198 cases that were reviewed — 59 of them, or 30 percent — was physical abuse.
Unsafe sleeping environments accounted for 27 percent of the deaths, followed by drowning.
Three other child deaths from 2008 were included by a state review committee, but their cases won't be looked at until this year.
"When you get a report like this, it's very frustrating to have so many children die in our state. Because they're all preventable," said Alan Abramowitz, director for the Family Safety Program Office for the Department of Children and Families.
The nearly 200-page report released Wednesday was compiled by the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee, a group designed to review each of the state's child-abuse deaths and make recommendations on protecting Florida's most vulnerable.
Of the 201 deaths, 184 of the children were 5 years old or younger.
Fifty-one of the deaths in the report were in Central Florida, where child drownings continue to be a top problem.
Advocates for Florida's most vulnerable said the figures, while devastating, aren't surprising.
Research shows added stress during economically tough times contributes to an increase in child abuse and neglect, the report said. The risk of abuse is exacerbated in families where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol and has difficulty controlling anger or stress.
"These child deaths and family tragedies show that families need help more than ever through what is and has been a very, very difficult time," Abramowitz said. "When our communities couple challenges like mental health and substance abuse with economic stress, our communities have a devastating result.
"Many of our families were already barely surviving, and for some, the loss of employment or even insurance is overwhelming."
Polk County reported 14 deaths, the highest number in the seven-county region. Next was Orange County with 12, followed by 10 in Brevard. Lake County had seven, Volusia reported four, Seminole had three and Osceola had one.
Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House, which serves victims of domestic violence in Central Florida, said she was saddened by the figures.
She said the important question to ask is what, as a state, we are willing to do to help prevent the abuse.
"There are things that we know we can do," Wick said, "but they cost money."
The committee made a list of recommendations in its report, including:
•The Legislature fund "quality" child care to meet the needs of the poor.
"Coping with Crying" programs should emphasize approaches to male caregivers between 18 and 30 years old.
Law-enforcement and child-protective investigators should develop a plan to test for substance abuse of all caregivers when a child is a victim of drowning, car crash or sleeping-related death.
Education programs should emphasize the importance of making informed, selective choices on choosing baby sitters.
Expand the committee's authority related to the review of the child deaths to have a more thorough understanding of why children are dying in Florida.
Abramowitz said education and awareness are key. People need to know help and services are out there.
"We have to support our families, not just those already involved with social services, but families who in the past would not have been involved with social serves," he said.