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Lying with Statistics

April 14, 2009 permalink

The US Department of Health and Human Services has released its annual report Child Maltreatment 2007 (pdf local copy). Much of the report is uninformative, for example, deaths from abuse in foster care and parental care are listed by state, but lumped together so that the foster care deaths alone are not disclosed. There is one place where foster deaths are listed by themselves, on page 62.

Relationship to Child fatalities
Mother 347
Mother and Other 96
Father 208
Father and Other 11
Mother and Father 232
Daycare Staff 24
Foster Parent (Female Relative) 0
Foster Parent (Male Relative) 0
Foster Parent (Nonrelative) 3
Foster Parent (Unknown Relationship) 3
Friend or Neighbor 2
Legal Guardian (Female) 0
Legal Guardian (Male) 0
More than One Nonparental Perpetrator 52
Other Professional 2
Partner of Parent (Female) 4
Partner of Parent (Male) 35
Relative (Female) 29
Relative (Male) 20
Staff Group Home 2
Unknown or Missing 210

Total 1,280

Comparison of these numbers with a list of deaths in non-parental care drawn from press reports shows the official numbers are too low.

For the four categories of foster parent, the report lists just six deaths. The press reported sixteen deaths of foster children in which the foster parents are accused: Loreyna Barea, Treau Jadyn Bemis, James Earl Bradley Jr, Miyanna Renae Chowning, Hailey Gonzalez, Chandler Ashton Grafner, Brittany (Brittnay) T Hampton, Alberto Johnny (Bobo) James, Chaeli Kyrie née Hei Min Chung, Dennis L Lindberg Jr, Tamaihia Lynae Moore, Malachi Jermaine Roberts-McBride, Jordan Kaleb Shelton, Alizé J Vick, Tyler (Ty Ty) B Westbrook and Davion Winrow.

For the category "staff group home" the report lists two deaths. The press reported eight: Jonathan Carey, Johnny S Dragomir, Ruben Gonzales, Caleb C Jensen, Omega Leach, Denis Manuel Maltez, David Mercado and Isaiah Simmons III. Maybe the department does not consider death by strangulation to be abuse.

The department doesn't seem to have a category for foster children killed by someone other than a foster parent. The press reported a dozen: Lydia Citrine Alday, Rodney Anderson, Daniel Brock Austin, Jamiya DeLoach, George Michael Flores, Melissa Flores, Earl R Freeman, Alizay A Koepf, Dymond McGowan, Demonte Norton, Cameron Smith and Christopher Stephens.

Another missing category is foster children dying in accidents. The press reported a dozen: Meshach Boges, Brittany K Burke, Madison Ariel Coley, Sunari Dowdell, Montana Rose Figgins, Jayla Thompson Fox, Christopher D H, Erica Lee Martinez, James McGee, Taya Pishion, Samuel (Sammy) Craig Vitela and Anariah West.

Finally, the department does not distinguish adoptive parents from the real kind. The press found three deaths of adopted children: Juan Turner Parks, Amanda G Piggott née Leandra Gutierrez, Crystal Ramirez née Camarillo,

The best estimate from statistical data on child mortality suggests that nineteen of every twenty deaths in foster care never get into the press. The official numbers on mortality in foster care are low to the point of absurdity. It is reasonable to assume that parts of the report other than deaths are just as absurd.