FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Advocates of child abuse prevention are raising awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to less calls to the Indiana Department of Child Services’ child abuse hotline. It’s an unfortunate reality for this month, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Lisa Blanchard, vice president of prevention services for SCAN (Stop Child Abuse & Neglect, Inc.), believes that Child Abuse Prevention Month might be more important this year than in years past.
“It’s always important, but right now as we look at families who have been isolated from their friends, from their schools, from their extended families, we’re looking at unique stressors that the families are experiencing and unique needs that are presenting themselves in ways that they may need support wrapped around them for things that we don’t normally consider such as the isolation and the mental health,” she said. “All of those things that we’ve taken for granted about what it means to be a parent and be a family have changed in the last year. People may need support overcoming the unique challenges.”
Indiana Department of Child Services records show a more than 10 percent drop in calls to their child abuse hotline. The hotline received about 600 calls each day on average in 2020. That’s compared with an average of about 700 calls each business day in 2019 and 2018.
“It’s due to children not being in school for so long,” said Noelle Russell, deputy director of communications for Indiana Department of Child Services. “Educators are far and away the most frequent reporters of child abuse.”
Blanchard gives further perspective on why the number of calls declined during the pandemic.
“Children don’t have contact to the people that have been seeing them, whether that was teachers or medical providers,” she explained. “As we would expect, calls have gone down, not because child abuse is not an issue right now but because children are not having contact with people who are generally used to identifying and seeing and interacting with those types of problems. So now we’re looking more at the neighbors who see kids riding their bikes down the street or hear the parents yelling at their children or people who haven’t traditionally thought about, ‘Oh, I need to call the hotline for this type of information.'”
Numbers are trending better this year, though. In January 2021 there were 663 calls per business day on average, 685 in February 2021, and 701 in March 2021.
Blanchard expressed the importance of witnesses calling the hotline.
“I want people to know and understand that calling the hotline means that we can provide resources to a family,” she said. “It gives us the opportunities to connect families to all of the services that our community has available.”
Indiana is a mandatory reporting state, meaning anyone who suspects a child has been neglected or abused must by state law make a report.
For more information on the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, visit the Indiana Department of Child Services website.