Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office: Help raise awareness of child abuse

May 31, 2021

At the height of the pandemic last year, reports of child abuse declined, with some authorities reporting a 60% decrease in calls to hotlines and child protection services. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, 400,000 fewer child welfare concerns were reported and 200,000 fewer investigations and assessments of child abuse and neglect were conducted in 2020, compared to 2019.

While the number of reports decreased, the drafts were much more severe than usual, with most being drafted because the child needed medical attention. What many feared were cases of child abuse and neglect that were not reported. In addition to spending more time together, the economic impact of the pandemic and increased unemployment have created additional stress in families. For some children, this created an unsafe environment with a lack of trustworthy and protective adults.

In 2019, an estimated five children died each day from child abuse and neglect for an estimated total of 1,840 deaths, an increase from the national 2018 estimate, accounting for 70% of the deaths, with those under a year younger nearly 50% Identify victims. In most cases, one parent acting alone or in concert with another parent was responsible for the death. Unfortunately, only a few within the family structure report child abuse because they are the perpetrator or experience abuse themselves.

Most child abuse reports come from adults outside the family who contact the child frequently enough to notice the abuse and are required to report it as part of their work. There have been fewer of these interactions in the past year. While this year some schools have resumed face-to-face tuition and hired reporters may keep an eye out for child abuse, those interactions will stop once the school closes in the summer. While the number of reports may decrease in the summer, that does not mean that it does. Unfortunately, summer time creates some of the most extreme cases of chronic abuse and neglect as children are isolated and completely dependent on the adults in their household.

This summer, watch out for the children in your life and register with families in your ward. If you are a trustworthy adult to a child, practice active listening and take action whenever a child shares an uncomfortable or unsafe experience at home. When checking in, consider asking open-ended questions to encourage conversation, such as:

  • What do you like most about being home?
  • What was the best part of your day?
  • How is everyone in your house?

Child abuse is preventable, and there are many ways you can support and empower families to prevent it. Visit the Arizona Child Abuse Prevention website for what you can do to help children in your household.

If you are concerned that a child is not safe at home, please call the Arizona Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-767-2445 or visit the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline for local resources and recommendations.

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