On March 25, 2020, the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) issued a press release, which stated that since March 11, 2020, DSS has experienced an approximate 50% drop in child abuse and neglect calls. While the number of calls going down might seem like good news at first glance, it is critical to know the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say.
Governor Parson is quoted as saying, "As a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years, I understand when a household is unsafe how vulnerable children can be. 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."
Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director of DSS, added, "This low number of calls is very abnormal for the Hotline and our worst fear is that children are unsafe while at home. Teachers and child care providers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect and are often our state's best radar on a child's wellbeing because children are in school or at child care each day."
DSS is also concerned that social distancing and isolation along with the unprecedented pressures parents and families are experiencing are elevating the risk for child abuse or neglect.
It behooves each of us to take seriously the responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable population--our children. You have heard it said, "If you see something, say something." Callers to the hotline number can report anonymously. The number is 1-800-392-3738 and is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Missouri Baptist Children's Home is an authorized facilitator of the Stewards of Children training, which trains you on how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and how you should respond if you suspect this is taking place. If you or your church have not yet participated in this training, I encourage you to contact David.Burch, our church engagement strategist, at David.Burch@MBCH.org for information. You may also call MBCH at 1-800-264-6224.
Let's do all we can to keep our children and families safe. Not only during these particularly trying and challenging times, but every day of the year. His children deserve nothing less.
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