Child abuse calls drop amid coronavirus-caused “stay at home” orders

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The amount of child abuse and neglect hotline calls has dropped 50% since March 11, but officials say that is not due to a drop in neglected children.

In fact, The Department of Social Services believes it’s still happening now if not more than before stay at home orders were put in place.

“As a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years, I understand when a household is unsafe how vulnerable children can be,” Governor Mike Parson said. “This dramatic drop in Hotline reports is truly alarming. I know Missourians are very focused on COVID-19, but we must remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure every Missouri child remains safe from abuse and neglect.”

The Department says stressors for parents like losing a job or taking a pay cut or even just being at home more can take a toll and could lead to abuse or neglect.

“This low number of calls is very abnormal for the Hotline and our worst fear is that children are unsafe while at home,” said Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director, Department of Social Services. “Teachers and child care providers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect and are often our state’s best radar on a child’s wellbeing because children are in school or at child care each day.”

Sara Smith with the Missouri Department of Social Services says the important thing right now is to remember that the department is still working to keep kids safe.

“The numbers are going down because children aren’t being seen,” Smith said. “Kids are at home, isolated during this time and are essentially more vulnerable. That’s really worrisome that during this time that kids that might need some support from the community and the children’s division or could be abused or neglected at this time, aren’t being seen by our school partners, churches and other community partners.”

If you suspect a child is being neglected or abused, make an anonymous call to the 24/7 Missouri hotline at 1-800-392-3738.

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