The Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline in Missouri received nearly 143,000 calls in 2020, according to information provided this Tuesday at a joint committee hearing on the subject.
Today’s hearing in the Missouri House of Representatives was organized by Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove. Previous meetings from the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect aimed to collect a wide scope of information on the general state of facilities, regulations and state entities that work with children in Missouri.
Of the 143,000 calls received in 2020, more than 81,000 were sent in the form of a report or referral for an investigation, said Sara Smith, unit manager for the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.
In March, when most of schools switched to online learning, the agency had a 50% drop in calls to the hotline. Calls rose again in September, shortly after the return of in-person classes.
When a call is placed via the hotline, the manager said there is normally a response time of 72 hours. If three calls about the same child are received within 72 hours, it generates a report to a supervisor.
At the hearing, representatives urged to improve the hotline’s response system.
“In four years of serving the 141st District I’ve never had so many articles of abuse and neglect on my desk,” Kelly said.
Just this month, two people faced criminal charges for the malnourishmentof a 6-year-old girl in Wright County, one of the two counties in the 114th District.
There are two kinds of reports and investigations, according to Smith. The first category is related to sexual and physical abuse, and requires a full investigation with law enforcement. This category also encompasses all fatalities, including children who died by natural causes.
The second type of report encompasses allegations on behalf children under the care of the state who are being mistreated, said Smith. Examples include educational neglect, lack of food in state-run foster facilities and a lack of basic utilities like water.
Tuesday’s hearing is expected to continue in the upcoming 2021 session.