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Calls to Idaho child abuse hotline down nearly 39% during coronavirus pandemic

The executive director with FACES of Hope told KTVB this drop in calls is due to reduced visibility of kids, not necessarily because child abuse dropped.

BOISE, Idaho — The state has seen the number of calls into their child abuse hotline drop significantly in the first half of the month of April. This is compared to the same time frame in 2019.

A spokesperson for the department said the reduced calls is due to kids being less visible, not necessarily because child abuse cases have dropped.

That’s something Paige Dinger, Executive Director for FACES of Hope agrees with.

“Obviously, what we do in our own homes, we try to keep private,” Dinger said.

FACES of Hope is a nonprofit that helps victims who’ve been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse, and more.

“Our concern has been because there are not eyes on children, they're not in school, they're not in daycare, they're not going to their regular doctors' appointments or regular playdates,” she said. “We don’t have eyes on these kids, so unfortunately because most abuse takes place at home, our calls and our reports are far fewer than they should be.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says from April 1-15 in 2019, the department received 1,101 calls to report possible child abuse or neglect.

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This year, during that same two-week time frame, that number dropped to 676. This is a difference of almost 39%.

“It's sort of like throwing gas on a fire,” Dinger said. “I can't imagine what the surge is going to be once the stay-at-home order is removed.”

That surge could come during the summer months, or it also could come in fall when students are expected to be back inside classrooms.

“I would hope that as we’re out in the community, if we see something that we report. We’re mandated reporters so we should,” Dinger said.  “Bruises can be covered; kids can be kept indoors until they’re at school and they have to go to school.”

Dinger told KTVB about signs people can look out for. These could be possible signs of child abuse. Physical signs are easier to see. They include things like unexplained bruises, bite marks, cuts or welts.

There are also emotional signs of possible child abuse. These are things like change in behavior, becoming withdrawn, acting out, or being afraid of adults.

“If you hear something, please report it, please just have somebody check on it. Please just call somebody because you could be saving a life,” Dinger said. “If there is a child in danger, we must report.”

IDHW said the number to report child abuse is available to call any time. If someone does call, they will be asked a series of questions. These range from the age or ages of the kids who are believed to be abused, to where they live and can be found.

Just because someone calls the number to report it, that doesn’t mean the accused will automatically be arrested. This means if the social worker who takes the call finds the report to be valid, an investigation will start.

The statewide number is 1-855-522-5437. People can submit tips anonymously if they wish.

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