DSS PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
March 25, 2020
Contact: Rebecca Woelfel
Alarming drop in Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline calls
Department of Social Services stresses importance of reporting suspected child abuse and neglect concerns of children unsafe at home.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Since March 11, 2020 the Department of Social Services (DSS) has experienced an approximate 50 percent drop in Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Calls. “As a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years, I understand when a household is unsafe how vulnerable children can be," Governor 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."
"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 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." Educators and child care providers make the largest number of Hotline reports and without that daily contact with a child, a child’s safety could be seriously impacted. The Department of Social Services, Children’s Division 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, child care 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 to call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738. The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day, every day, all year round. Callers can report anonymously.
The Department of Social Services is committed to serving the needs of Missouri citizens during COVID-19 pandemic. Information regarding the department’s response to the pandemic is available online https://dss.mo.gov/covid-19.
The mission of the Department of Social Services is to empower Missourians to live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Visit dss.mo.gov to learn more about the Department of Social Services and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.