Oklahoma had the seventh worst child death rate from abuse and neglect in the nation during 2007, a setback from the previous year. Thirty-one Oklahoma children died from abuse and neglect in 2007, leaving the state with a death rate of 3.48 per 100,000 children, according to a report by the Every Child Matters Education Fund, a Washington-based nonprofit group that works to make children, youth and families a national priority.
The group’s researchers used 2007 data because that is the most recent available from the federal government, said Patrick Stevenson, spokesman for the organization. The Oklahoma numbers represent a setback from the previous year when the federal government reported 26 Oklahoma children died from abuse and neglect, a death rate of 2.92 per 100,000 children. However, both years are significantly better than 2005 when the government reported 41 Oklahoma children died from abuse and neglect and the state ranked as the worst in the nation. Kentucky ranked as the worst state in the latest report, with a death rate of 4.09 per 100,000 children. Beth Scott, public information officer for the state Department of Human Services, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the rankings because different states use different definitions for abuse and neglect and Oklahoma’s definition is broader than many states. “The official number of children killed from abuse or neglect nationwide in 2007 is 1,760,” the Every Child Matters Education Fund said in its report. The group called on the federal government to increase financial support for child protective programs and the elimination of restrictive confidentiality laws that keep the public from knowing how the child protection system is failing families. “Confidentiality laws have become a hindrance to a better public understanding of child abuse and neglect fatalities,” the report said.