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Officials worry about alarming drop in Missouri child abuse and neglect hotline calls

“This low number of calls is very abnormal for the hotline and our worst fear is that children are unsafe while at home"
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Social Services said it has experienced an approximate 50% drop in child abuse and neglect hotline phone calls since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“As a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years, I understand when a household is unsafe how vulnerable children can be,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “This dramatic drop in Hotline reports is truly alarming.  I know Missourians are very focused on COVID-19, but we must remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure every Missouri child remains safe from abuse and neglect.” 

Educators and childcare providers make the largest number of hotline reports and without that daily contact with a child, a child’s safety could be seriously impacted, according to a press release from the Missouri Department of Social Services.

“This low number of calls is very abnormal for the hotline and our worst fear is that children are unsafe while at home," said Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director, Department of Social Services.

Teachers and childcare providers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect and are often our state’s best radar on a child’s well-being because children are in school or at child care each day.” 

The Department of Social Services, Children’s Division said it is also very concerned that social isolation and the unprecedented pressures parents and families are experiencing are elevating the risk for child abuse or neglect.

“If you are an educator, childcare provider, or anyone who has concerns for a child you think may be at risk, please call the hotline,” Tidball said. “Children’s Division workers are still out there connecting with families, providing assistance, and making sure kids are safe.  But we can’t help that child if we don’t get a report to the hotline.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Social Services urges every Missourian to be especially attentive to the safety and wellbeing of children, and strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect the hotline at 1-800-392-3738. The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day and callers can report anonymously.

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