Oregon Department of Human Services usually averages around 700 calls per day from individuals concerning child abuse. This number has dropped to less than 300 calls per day in the last few weeks.
One DHS spokeswoman has described this dramatic decline as being “extremely concerning.” While child abuse reports are down, calls to suicide prevention lines, the National Sexual Assault & Abuse Hotline, domestic violence, and cyber-bullying hotlines have skyrocketed in recent weeks.
Many child abuse advocates are concerned that due to the stay at home order the numbers of reports are down because children have fewer eyes on them without being in school or extracurriculars. In addition, Prevent Child Abuse Oregon advocates believe that with the added stressors from the unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in, coupled with this decrease in oversight, there is a good chance that abuse and neglect is occurring more.
PCAO Executive Director Pamela Heisler has stated that the majority of children who end up in foster care or the child welfare system are under the age of five. What’s more is those that self-report child abuse are often older, as many younger children do not have access to technology to report abuse.
DHS reports that the economic instability is an “absolute risk factor” and that for children in vulnerable situations, this can amplify the struggles at home.
KGW quoted Heiser, saying, “We know that parents are stressed right now, and everyone has the right to be so extremely stressed. This is the biggest crisis we’ve faced as a country in our lifetimes, but what we want to remind people is: It’s not OK to take it out on your kids.”
Child abuse advocates are encouraging people to check on friends and family to find out if they can help ease the stress and support families who need it. If they are in higher risk group, ask if they need help with meals, wipes, or diapers.
PCAO, Healthy Families Oregon, and Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries have started a campaign to get baby supplies to vulnerable families. There are currently over 20 advocacy centers for children still operating in Oregon, although many training programs have been put on hiatus.
Oregon Child Abuse Solutions has a website designed to educate, provide tips, and answer questions about reporting abuse.
You can call the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline 24/7. You can also report child abuse by calling local law enforcement.
To report sexual abuse and seek help, please call the National Sexual Assault & Abuse Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (that’s 1-800-656-4673) or visit this website.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please call 1-855-503-SAFE (that’s 1-855-503-7233).
By Sam Schultz