Child abuse reporting down significantly, but advocates fear the number of victims is up

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With classrooms and churches empty, fewer caring adults are watching our children.

“As we shut down and as we social distance to stay safe from the pandemic, reports to the DHS hotline, the child abuse hotline, has decreased approximately 50%,” Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma Executive Director Carrie Little said.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services reports an average of 252 calls a day in the first half of March.

They dropped in half during that same time frame in April, but that doesn’t mean child abuse and neglect isn’t happening. In fact, it may be increasing.

“One of the largest groups of people and advocates for kids who report abuse to the hotline are educators so as school has been out of session and people are working from home we have literally lost sight of children,” Little said.

The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma created flyers using #essential4kids.

Flyer by Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma

It shows warning signs including:

1. Physicals marks like burns, bites or complaints of pain.
2. Demonstrating unusual sexual knowledge or behavior for their age.
3. Or a children begging or stealing food.

Flyer by Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma

And since April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, DHS has a campaign focusing on strengthening families through resources.

Because most of the calls that come in are about neglect.

“The truth of the matter is about 90% of our referrals are for social, physical and mental health needs of families,” Child Welfare Services Director Dr. Deb Shropshire said.

Flyer by Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma

Shropshire hopes citizens who call the hotline will look for other ways to help. Dropping off food and basic necessities is one suggestion.

“My hope is and my desire is that as a community, we will have done a great job in this moment and the next moments to help people and not just report them,” she said.

“Because a child might be depending on you for their very life right now,” Little said.

You can call the child abuse/neglect hotline 24/7 at 1-800-522-3511.

If a child is in immediate danger call 911.

Visit http://www.okdhs.org/Pages/WhatDoYouNeed.aspx or http://cacok.com/ for more information.

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