NEW ORLEANS -- Physical child abuse is on the rise in the metro area, with some of those tragic cases making headlines this year.
A local children's advocacy center responsible for tracking those numbers says it's not looking good. "We've actually seen about a 48 percent increase in children served where there's been physical abuse," said Stacie LeBlanc with the New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center.
The community rallied in July around a Harvey mother after six-year-old Ahlittia North's body was found stabbed and then stuffed in a trash can. A relative is accused of her murder.
Then, in March another violent child abuse case.
"In his words, he just clicked out. He became very irate and very angry," said Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Col. John Fortunato talking about the anger that authorities say killed Darionne Taylor. The two-year-old girl lost consciousness on the kitchen floor after detectives say her mother's boyfriend confessed to shaking her violently and then dropping her.
In February, three-year-old Desmond Brown was found dead inside his Marrero house. Authorities arrested his mother's boyfriend after an autopsy report showed possible suffocation and evidence of blunt force trauma.
The New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center says severe physical abuse cases are up. Last year's total was 223. So far, this year the center has seen 221 cases.
"That is two less children and we're just a little over half the year," said LeBlanc, "It is definitely a shock to show that one particular form of abuse seems to be spiking while the others are remaining consistent."
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) says between January and July of last year it was involved with 2,614 families in the New Orleans region regarding abuse and neglect.
The state agency says over the same 7 month-period of this year it has seen 2,714 families.
LeBlanc can't pinpoint what might be fueling the spike in local child abuse cases but says economics can play a big role.
"They've been three published research articles in the last 3 years. That have indicated that in times of recession and in times in economic hardship that child physical abuse is shown to increase," said LeBlanc.
"Nobody really wants to think a family member or someone we know could be doing harm to a child," said LSU Health Sciences Clinical Social Worker Michele Many. She says for parents or guardians who are overwhelmed its best to seek help before its too late. Many also stresses the importance of reporting abuse with the North case as a tragic lesson.
"I think we need to think more carefully about the possible harm that can follow this child and unfortunately this poor little girl lost her life and in a very violent way," said Many.
There is a statewide, toll-free child abuse hotline anyone can call for help. That number is 1-855-4LA-KIDS. DCFS says in the last 2 years the number has helped assess 95,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect.