INDIANAPOLIS -- Reports of child abuse and neglect in Indiana grew 15 percent during the past two years, a top official in the state's child protection agency said.
Department of Child Services Chief of Staff John Ryan said the agency received about 151,000 reports in 2011, and 173,000 in 2012.
Contact information ( * required )
"Reports are up, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's more abuse or neglect taking place," Ryan told WRTV-TV . "What it hopefully means is people are more aware of abuse and neglect and are stepping forward and reporting it."
Less than a fifth of those reports are substantiated, Ryan said.
Agency spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the figures are accurate, but she said the statistics aren't compiled in a formal report. Consistent figures have only been available since a statewide child abuse hotline started in 2010 allowed the agency to track reports in all 92 counties, she said.
Before the DCS was spun off as a separate agency from the Family and Social Service Administration in 2005, the counties ran local child protection offices and reports were compiled inconsistently, she said, adding there was no centralized source for data until the hotline went into effect. Calls to the hotline come from entities that are required to report suspected abuse, such as police, hospitals and schools, and from concerned neighbors.
The agency tracks the types of abuse and other details but does not regularly combine that information into reports, McFarland said.
Figures show that Indiana had 360 abuse-related child deaths between 2003 and 2010, the latest year for which numbers are available.