Report: youngest N.J. kids most likely to die from abuse

An advocacy group has crunched the numbers and says most kids who die from abuse and neglect in New Jersey are 3 or younger.

After reviewing data from a five year period, Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says 80 percent of the kids who died from abuse were younger than four.  Nearly half of them already were known to the state’s child protection system.

Zalkind says younger children are especially vulnerable.

“They can’t protect themselves. Shaken baby syndrome for example. They’re also kids who are not often with other people,” she said. “With slightly older children they’re in school. Someone else is seeing what’s going on in the family. These kids tend to be solely with parents.”

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Zalkind is recommending New Jersey revise its safety assessment policies and collect more data about the abuse of those kids.

“We’re asking that staff be trained in the particular needs of infants and toddlers,” said Zalkind. “From a developmental point of view their needs are greater. The trauma that they experience just by separation from their families can be greater because of their age.”

The state Department of Children and Families said it has no comment on the group’s report.

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