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Community Safety
KSMU is dedicated to broadcasting critically important information as our community experiences the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, you'll find our ongoing coverage.

As Citizens Emerge From Quarantine, Child Abuse Reports May Increase

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This week, most Missouri businesses and organizations are slowly reopening. But schools, churches, and many camps in Greene County will remain closed to large groups for now. And those are some of the main places to spot signs of child abuse.  The number of child abuse reports dropped dramatically when the pandemic hit, likely because the abuse remained hidden. After news stories about this situation broke, the number of calls to one local agency began to climb--but only slightly.  Now, one expert says groups that support children may see an increase in cases as the quarantine ends.

 In March, the Missouri Department of Social Services reported a 50% decrease in the number of calls to its Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, which it described as "alarming." This trend came at the same time schools, churches, and other businesses closed because of the coronavirus. DSS spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel says total hotline calls are still only about 50% of what they were this time last year.

Linda Saturno, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield, told KSMU their numbers dropped, too, when the pandemic hit--and although they increased a little after news reports highlighted the statewide drop, they're still well below average. The CAC serves children impacted by sexual and physical abuse. 

Saturno said she’s worried groups that support children will see a spike of reports when the quarantine ends. The Child Advocacy Center plans to expand its facilities to include more child interview, observation, and medical examination rooms. 

 

Saturno urges every adult to be vigilant and report suspected child abuse on the Child Abuse and Neglect hotline. That number is 1-800-392-3738.