Frequency of child abuse and neglect dropped in 2011, new report shows

The number of children who were abused or neglected in Winnebago County dropped significantly in 2011, although it’s unclear if the change resulted from less maltreatment or a change in how victims are counted, according to a new state report.

There were 115 known victims of child abuse or neglect in the county during 2011, a drop of about 38 percent from the previous year, according to county level figures released alongside the state’s 2011 Child Abuse and Neglect report in recent weeks.

The decrease follows a statewide trend in 2011, when there were 4,671 children known to be abused or neglected in all 72 counties combined. That’s a 35 percent drop from 2010.

It is unclear how much of the change resulted from an actual decrease in cases. The state used to count children more than once if they were abused multiple times during a year. However, child victims were only counted one time beginning with the 2011 report.

Mary Wiatrowski, the supervisor of child abuse investigations for Winnebago County’s department of health and human services, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on these numbers Friday.

According to the report:

  • Winnebago county social services received a total of 2,424 referrals for alleged child abuse or neglect in 2011. That’s roughly the same as the previous year.
  • Child protection social workers investigated 831 referrals and determined maltreatment occurred in 9 percent of the cases.
  • The overwhelming majority of referrals, or 897, were for suspected child neglect. The county received 387 referrals for suspected physical abuse, 217 referrals for suspected sexual abuse and 45 referrals for emotional abuse.

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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