AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The number of child deaths in Texas from abuse or neglect dropped significantly in the past fiscal year to the lowest level since 2000, according to a state report.
Figures released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services show there were 156 deaths in fiscal 2013, down from 212 the prior year. There were also 156 deaths reported in 2000.
Department spokesman Patrick Crimmins said agency officials really don't know why fatality numbers vary from year to year. The 2013 numbers, released by the agency Tuesday, are based on an estimated statewide population of nearly 7.2 million children.
Dallas County had 17 abuse- and neglect-related deaths in the fiscal year that ended last August. That compares to 11 child deaths in the previous fiscal year. Harris County, which includes Houston and is the most populous county in the state, had 24 child deaths in fiscal 2013 blamed on abuse and neglect, compared to 45 a year earlier.
In Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, 10 children died at the hands of a caregiver, a drop of about 50 percent.
But Kim Abernethy, who heads a child advocacy center, told the San Antonio Express-News that experts struggle to understand why Bexar County has a high rate of child victimization and repeat victimization when compared to other metro areas.
"That's always the question we're trying to figure out," Abernethy said. "The better we do at reporting (incidences of abuse) will make the numbers go up before they go down. But we also have very high rates of domestic violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancy in San Antonio, and those are all correlated with child abuse and neglect."