Indiana’s Children Are Surviving, Not Thriving: Dating violence, suicidal ideation, abuse...

Indiana’s Children Are Surviving, Not Thriving: Dating violence, suicidal ideation, abuse and poverty plague Hoosier youth


Data compiled in the Indiana Youth Institute’s (IYI) 2017 KIDS COUNT in Indiana Data Book reveals that, in many cases, Hoosier youth are not thriving. Instead, they are merely surviving.

Washington County’s youth poverty rate (22.9 %) is well under the highest in the state (Delaware County’s 31.2 %) but 2.3 percent over the Indiana average. 

The Data Book shows Indiana’s children are more likely to be victims of poverty and maltreatment than their peers nationally. In addition, Hoosier teens report higher levels of dating violence and suicidal ideation than in many other states.

“The success of our state is directly connected to the well-being of our children,” says Tami Silverman, IYI’s president and CEO. “All of our children, regardless of their circumstances, deserve a safe, productive environment where they can learn, grow and thrive. Indiana can and should be a great place to grow up – and we need to keep working to make this a reality for all Hoosier kids.”

Child Abuse/Neglect:

The littlest Hoosiers are often the most vulnerable. The state’s child abuse and neglect rate has risen steadily since 2011. In 2015, 17 out of every 1,000 Hoosier children were the victims of abuse or neglect. The data shows a stark and steady increase linked to cases involving parental substance abuse. More than half (52 percent) of the children removed by Indiana’s Department of Child Services in 2016 were removed due to a parental substance issue. That rate is up from 48 percent in 2015, 43 percent in 2014 and 32 percent in 2013.

Child Poverty:

The state’s child poverty rate is not improving as rapidly as the state’s economy. One in five Hoosier kids still lives in poverty, with single-mother households facing the greatest hurdles. More than half (50.6 percent) of children in single-mother families live in poverty. That is more than twice as many as in single-father families (23.2 percent) and is higher than the national rate (46.0 percent) for single-mother households. Single mothers earn significantly less than what single fathers make and a larger portion of their income goes toward child care.

Teen Dating Violence:

A survey of Indiana’s high school students reveals many of them are involved in risky and potentially dangerous relationships. Across the board, Indiana has higher rates of teen dating violence than the national average. In one national survey of more than 30 states, Indiana ranked third highest for sexual dating violence among teens (12.6 percent). One in ten Hoosier high schoolers reports they have been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to by a significant other, ranking Indiana 6th in the survey. Additionally, ten percent of Hoosier high schoolers reports being intentionally physically hurt by someone they were dating.

Teen Suicidal Ideation:

The data shows that Hoosier teens struggle when it comes to suicide. A national-level survey of more than 30 states ranked the state as 3rd for high schoolers who have seriously considered suicide (19.8 percent), 3rd for those who made a suicide plan (17.0 percent), 10th for students who actually attempted to take their own lives (9.9 percent) and 9th for high schoolers whose suicide attempts required professional medical attention. These issues are frequently linked to mental health problems, the most common of which is depression. In 2015, 29.3 percent of Hoosier high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless that they stopped doing some of their normal activities for two or more weeks in a row.

Other issues highlighted in this year’s Data Book include:

• Indiana’s 2015 infant mortality rate is at 7.3 per 1,000.

• Hoosier mothers-to-be smoke at rates nearly double the national level, but rates have fallen.

• The number of youth homicides (ages 1-19) continues to increase.

• Indiana’s rate of school bullying has fallen below national levels.

• Indiana’s number of homeless students decreased for the first time since 2006.

• A greater percentage of Indiana’s teens are enrolled in school and/or in the labor force than in the previous year.

• A greater percentage of full-time college students are earning their degrees on time compared to previous years.

The 2017 KIDS COUNT in Indiana Data Book from the Indiana Youth Institute complies data from hundreds of national and statewide sources to paint a picture of what it’s like to be a child in the Hoosier state.

The Indiana Youth Institute produces the KIDS COUNT in Indiana Data Book as part of a national network of state-level projects coordinated and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). Some data from this book also will be included in AECF’s national KIDS COUNT Data Book, which provides state-by-state comparisons of child well-being and will be released later this year.

The Indiana Youth Institute promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being.