CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, there’s been a dramatic and abnormal decrease in the number of calls to the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline.
DSS officials worry that drop is due to more time spent at home and less time in school and at child care centers because of the pandemic. School teachers and child care providers must report any suspected neglect or abuse, and students aren’t seeing those mandatory reporters right now.
According to Missouri’s Department of Social Services, calls decreased about 44 percent in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Now, Heartland law enforcement and child advocates worry what this will mean when school’s back in session.
Sergeant Joey Hann with the Cape Girardeau Police Department said the pandemic and shortened school year caused a reporting gap. According to Hann, there could be an increase in child abuse and neglect reports once schools reopen.
“You put a face like your own child onto the face of these victims, and it’s heartbreaking. So we want to make sure that they do have a voice, and they do have someone that they can trust, and that they can report any type of abuse or any type of neglect. And so we can come forward and we can help to create a good support structure,” said Sergeant Hann.
Hann said isolation and financial distress caused by the pandemic can lead to domestic violence as well.
If you need to report child abuse or neglect, Missouri’s toll-free, hotline number is 1-800-392-3738. Someone answers call 24/7, every day of the year.