SPRINGFIELD -- Neglect and abuse killed 90 children across the state last year, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said Thursday, and almost half were infants who died in unsafe sleeping conditions.
The total could rise, department spokesman Dave Clarkin said, as more than 60 death investigations from 2012 are still pending.
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Forty of the children were infants who suffocated while sleeping with parents, with blankets or on their stomachs, Clarkin said. All of those practices are considered dangerous and advised against by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Clarkin says the department has worked hard to warn young mothers about the dangers, but now needs to try to reach grandmothers.
"We really need to do a better job of reaching maternal grandmothers. Young mothers in particular turn heavily to their own mothers for advice," he said.
Homicides were the second-largest category of deaths with 22. In many cases, the department's investigations found that warning signs, such as physical abuse and domestic violence, before the deaths were never reported.
The department wasn't sure how many of those homicides have resulted in successful prosecutions.
The department doesn't have calendar totals for deaths from neglect and abuse from previous years for comparison to 2012, Clarkin said, but the total for the 2011 state fiscal year was also 90.