Confirmed child abuse cases decreases during first half of fiscal year 2001


Wednesday, March 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Confirmed child abuse cases in Oklahoma decreased during the first six months of fiscal year 2001, continuing a three-year decline.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services confirmed 6,572 cases of abuse and neglect involving children on Tuesday. At that pace, the number would total about 1,100 cases less than last year.

Even if the pace picks up this spring, officials do not expect a significant rise in the number.

Since 1991, the number of confirmed child abuse cases in Oklahoma had risen steadily, peaking in 1998 at 16,710.

That number began dropping in 1999 and made its biggest decline last year when the agency reported about 2,000 fewer confirmed cases involving children.

Kathy Simms, head of child protective services at DHS, said the number of confirmed cases peaked in 1998 and 1999 because the department put extra emphasis on completing thousands of cases from the previous year that were pending for more than 60 days.

``That's a real positive trend. ... I'd say we're definitely stabilizing,'' Simms said. ``We have put a significant focus on this issue in this state and slowly but surely, I would hope we're seeing the results of these efforts.''

DHS Director Howard Hendrick presented the findings during a presentation at the Human Services Commission monthly meeting at the state Capitol complex in Oklahoma City.

The drop over the last three years and the potential decrease this fiscal year are significant because of the overall trend they represent, Hendrick said.

``It's not good that we have any, but it's a good indication we're stopping the trend of the injuries. It was going the wrong way.''

On the other hand, the number of referrals and investigations of abuse and neglect has continued a slow climb. Simms said the agency screens out about one-third of the cases as non- abuse or neglect cases.

A significant number of those cases are substance abuse, Simms said.