Springfield Child advocates push for more vigilance during Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, beyond
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Governor Mike Parson proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Missouri.
The mission and goal of Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month have become more crucial because of the pandemic. Child Advocacy organizations in Springfield are utilizing the month of April to bring awareness to the issues brought on by the pandemic.
At the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), on Historic Walnut Street in Springfield, there was a significant decrease in reported child abuse last year.
Linda Saturno, Executive Director at the Child Advocacy Center, says ideally seeing low numbers are good, however, there were months CAC wasn’t busy at all during COVID, which was concerning.
“They weren’t around the schools, and teachers do a lot of the reporting,” said Saturno.
Saturno revealed more than 90-percent of abuse happens from someone a child knows; and 50-percent of the time, if the child is under eight years old, it’s a family member. She said knowing those statistics and seeing a decrease in reports amplified the worry for child advocates across the country because child abuse was going unseen and unreported.
“Because we know child abuse didn’t stop, and kids were at home with their abusers,” explained Saturno. ”Family members were coming over more. I can’t tell you how worried people in child protection, including the teachers, have been since being at home and not being seen.”
As kids transition back into in-person learning, and COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country, Saturno says as expected, reported abuse numbers have gone up substantially.
“What we also expect, and what we’ve already begun to see, is that the cases are deeper in severity,” explained Saturno. “Because they may have gone on longer, the level of abuse, the type of abuse, access to the internet, access to pornography, kids on the internet more, adults on the internet more, it all has presented some really challenging cases.”
Saturno said they’ve been busy this year, especially March and April. She said most days being 8-10 kids at the CAC, including sibling groups.
As reports of child abuse are rising as COVID-19 restrictions are lifting, the Victim Center on North Booneville has noticed similar trends as the Child Advocacy Center.
Brandi Bartel, Executive Director of the Victim Center, said there a various reasons more people are coming forward to report child abuse.
" Perhaps they delayed or weren’t able to report the crime immediately, or they just weren’t feeling safe to come to report their crime,” explained Bartel. “This has been an ongoing trend that we’ve been experiencing for a while and our agency does believe that some of that is connected to COVID 19.”
This is why both Bartel and Saturno said people need to be attentive and ask questions if something seems off.
Child abuse can happen in many forms it can be neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Signs to look for include increased anxiety, self-isolation, increased bedwetting, behavioral changes, like anger or clinginess.
Saturno said you have to keep an eye on the little ones too. Because abuse does happen to babies, watch out for bumps around the genitals and any bruising on the body.
“The real message is that we don’t want to scare people, but 93-percent of abuse is by someone the child knows, and lots of times, it’s a family member. So, take all precautions at all times to protect your child,” explained Saturno.
Bartel added, “So if a child has a caring network of adults and trusted persons around them that are looking out for their well-being, our community as a whole will be much safer, and a more resilient place to live, work and play.”
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738. There’s a team available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are hearing or speech impaired, call Relay Missouri at 1-800-735-2466 (voice) or 1-800-735-2966 (text).
If you suspect a child to be in immediate danger, call 911.
Victim Center: 417- 863-7273
Child Advocacy Center: : 417-256-4445
Greene County Family Justice Center: 417-799-1500
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