In 2020, the state received fewer than half the number of child abuse/neglect reports than the previous year.
On the outset, that might sound like great news. Less reports equal less abuse, right? But, unfortunately, that's not the way it works.
Instead of celebrating the numbers, the Department of Social Services' children's division sees a cause for alarm, as we recently reported.
That's because most abuse/neglect reports come from "mandatory reporting" — often a teacher or other school employee. With many schools closed to in-person classes in 2020, that meant fewer reports.
It didn't mean less abuse/neglect. It just meant schools and other agencies bound by mandatory reporting requirements weren't able to detect and report it as much.
During April 2019, the division received 6,351 reports of abuse or neglect statewide. In 2020, it received just 2,917.
In Cole County, during April 2019, the division received 59 reports in 2019 and only 37 in 2020.
That's why officials, including Gov. Mike Parson, have urged Missourians to report suspected child abuse/neglect.
Parson, who proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, said it's critical to raise awareness about child abuse and to remind Missourians that children rely on adults to protect them.
Abuse/neglect can be reported simply and confidentially by calling 1-800-392-3738. The hotline is always open.
We, also, urge you to look out for our state's children and don't hesitate to make a report if you suspect abuse/neglect. The report may turn out to be unfounded, but it's better to error on the side of caution and make the call. Keeping our children safe should be of utmost importance to our community and our society.