The number of neglected and abused children coming into Cincinnati’s Hamilton County juvenile court system has skyrocketed in the last two years, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. In 2015, the number of new complaints filed by county social workers to remove children from their homes spiked by 34 percent, and that number is on par this year. The heroin epidemic plaguing the region is a piece of the spike, but not the sole reason, say those who work in the system. “What do we think is driving this? It’s not clear,” said Tracy Cook of ProKids. “Everyone in the public wants it to be heroin. Is some of it heroin? Absolutely. But it’s not all. It’s not even half. There’s no one reason.”
Understanding what is fueling the increase is paramount to find ways to decrease it. Officials say there has been no change in policy or procedure that would make the numbers spike. Most agree the increases are tied to the complex issues of substance abuse, mental illness, the city’s high poverty rate and domestic violence, but those issues are far from new in the world of child abuse and neglect. On paper, the trend line since 2012 has inched up by a few dozen children each year. Then came 2015, when 1,367 new children entered the court system – a one-year increase of 385 kids – bringing to 3,043 the total number of all children in its child protection system, according to a juvenile court report. Through Dec. 7 this year, that number was at 1,259 new kids and it will surely increase this month, said Carla Guenthner, chief juvenile court magistrate.