Negligence by parents or other adults is far more likely than physical abuse to be the root cause of children’s deaths in Georgia, according to an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Neglect caused or contributed to about 40 percent of the deaths reported to a state review panel in 2012, the Journal-Constitution’s analysis found. Only one-third as many deaths occurred in abuse cases and other homicides combined. Yet the neglect deaths tend to garner far less public attention and rarely result in criminal charges.
The neglect victims tended to be infants or toddlers from poor families. Their parents often were young and lacking education, with low-paying jobs or no jobs at all. A thread of substance abuse — methamphetamine, Oxycontin, alcohol — coursed through dozens of the cases, as did a history of abuse and neglect.
“This is the underlying ‘I-don’t-give-a-damn’ stuff — not taking care of the child the way it needs to be taken care of,” Burke County Coroner Susan Salemi said. “This is where children are slipping through the cracks.”
Salemi investigated the death of 3-year-old Ziyon Green, a deaf and mute girl who was run over by a logging truck in March 2012. As many as nine adults, including Ziyon’s teenage mother, lived in the house with her. But no one stopped the girl from unlocking the front door and escaping onto a busy two-lane highway.