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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Hundreds of thousands of dollars are now being put to work to help prevent child abuse and assist foster children after they’ve aged out of DHS care.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, there were a myriad of concerns worldwide – many of them tied to fears of catching COVID-19.

But others were indirect consequences, like the welfare of children in their own home.

“Maybe families were struggling to have adequate food or housing or things like that and what would that do to the child abuse and neglect rates?” said Dr. Deborah Shropshire, OKDHS Child Welfare Director.

Shorpshire says 80-90% of calls to child welfare are neglect concerns.

“Which is often concrete needs they may have, housing, food, those types of things or really the social relationship we could help with,” said Shorpshire. 

As you can imagine, the financial strain of the pandemic made those needs grow.

Now with more than $325,000 in funding from the American Rescue Plan being distributed to child abuse and treatment partners across the state, the hope is that those needs will be filled – and used to find new ways to strengthen family bonds.

DHS is also directing funds to help children who have aged out of foster care.

“In fact, we’ve had a number of kids who left our care at 18 and have run into a problem at some point during the pandemic and said hey I need help, what can you do to help me?” said Shorpshire.

It’s a boost of hope for those who need it most. If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, you’re legally responsible to report it to the OKDHS Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. The hotline is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.