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North Dakota, Minnesota rank low in child abuse deaths

A new report shows that North Dakota and Minnesota are among the states with the lowest cases of child abuse- and neglect-related deaths in the country.

A new report shows that North Dakota and Minnesota are among the states with the lowest cases of child abuse- and neglect-related deaths in the country.

While it's a trend that appears to be happening in Clay County, that may not be the case across the border.

"We've seen a definite increase over the last couple years," said Greg Diehl, the director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo.

From a case involving a 4-month-old Mandan, N.D., boy who died in 2006 of brain damage when his father severely shook him to several "very disturbing" local pornography cases that involved children as young as 6 months old, Diehl said the state still has room to improve.

Today's report, released by the national nonprofit Every Child Matters, gives state-by-state data on child abuse and neglect.

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The report states that five children die each day from abuse and neglect in the U.S. North Dakota ranks seventh lowest and Minnesota ninth lowest of states that reported rates of child abuse- and neglect-related deaths.

Carol Beckstrom of Clay County Social Services said officials there have seen a drop in the number of child abuse cases over the past two years.

"Here in Clay County, we haven't seen the severe incidents we did in the past," Beckstrom said. "We're not sure why that is."

But a report released this month by the St. Paul-based Children's Defense Fund Minnesota shows that poverty, which is closely associated with child abuse and neglect, is on the rise in Clay County and across the state.

That, in turn, could affect the number of child abuse cases in the near future, Beckstrom said.

It may already be the case across the border.

"With the economic downturn and increased stress on families, there seems to be an increase in violence in our society," Diehl said. "We have some issues to deal with in our community."

From 2000 to 2004, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center helped about 500 children each year. That climbed to nearly 650 children last year.

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Today's report shows that 29 North Dakota children died due to abuse or neglect from 2001 to 2007. During that time, 103 Minnesota children died of child abuse- or neglect-related incidences.

That's why, while North Dakota and Minnesota rank among the states with the lowest numbers, Diehl and Beckstrom said both states can still improve.

"One child is too many," Beckstrom said. "We need to continue our effort of lessoning the severity of abuse children are experiencing."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

Related Topics: CRIME
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