TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Forty-seven Oklahoma children died as a result of abuse or neglect during fiscal year 1999, marking the fourth straight year the death toll has risen, according to new state figures.
"Every year it seems like it is the same old thing, over and over again," said Steve Bailey, chairman of the Commission for Human Services. "I wonder when it is going to change. When is society going to say enough is enough?"
In 1998, 45 children died; in 1997, the number was 42; and in 1996, 29 children died. Since 1990, 327 children have died as a result of abuse or neglect.
Of the 47 deaths during fiscal 1999, 21 of the children were younger than 1 year and 11 were between the ages of 1 and 2,according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Human Services.
Thirty of the children died as a result of neglect, 13 as a result of abuse and four as a result of both.
Neglect can involve a lack of supervision, such as when a child dies in a house fire or has access to guns. Abuse involves a physical injury.
The child death numbers are "way too high," DHS Director Howard Hendrick said.
Tulsa and Oklahoma counties reported nine deaths each to lead the state. Five children died in Comanche County, followed by four in Cherokee County.
Mothers were responsible for the deaths in 42 percent of the cases, and fathers were responsible in 34 percent of the cases.
The number of abuse and neglect cases investigated dropped from 61,709 in 1998 to 57,026 in 1999, although Esther Rider-Salem, a DHS child protective services programs manager, said she doesn't consider that significant.
"We really spent some time in 1998 to complete the backlog to make up for some things that had gotten delayed," she said. "That may account somewhat for the drop."
The number of confirmed cases statewide dropped to 16,217 from 16,710 in 1998.