Created: April 28, 2021 07:15 AM
(ABC 6 NEWS) - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Minnesota Department of Human Services saw a 16% decrease in the number of child maltreatment reports received in the first months of 2020 compared to 2019.
"Kids are not being exposed to the people that typically cause reports which is school staff, neighbors, medical people, so we are not seeing the kids physically so you are not having that exposure to recognize or to allow the kids to talk about it," said Chair of the Mayo Clinic Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics, Dr. Arne Graff.
That decrease in reports was seen locally too. Olmsted County saw a 20% decline in child abuse reports for 2020.
"We did partner pretty closely with the school district as well as our community partners to really work together to ensure that families had what they needed," said Olmsted County Program Manager for Adoption, Child Foster Care, and Family Child Care, Tiffany Kacir.
During the pandemic, Olmsted County has continued to offer meals as well as masks and hand sanitizers for families through community partners. Olmsted County normally serves around 700 families in child protection services, but it isn't just the county helping out.
The Mayo Center for Safe and Healthy Children and Adolescents helps determine if child abuse is happening whether that be through an interview or medical exams. One doctor at Mayo Clinic said nationwide data shows there is an alarming increase in severe abuse cases.
"We know with stress in poverty situations that child maltreatment goes up, so numbers are down for reporting, ER visits are down for kids coming in for child abuse, but the hospitalization for kids with child abuse has increased and the severity of injuries," said Dr. Graff.
In Austin, the Parenting Resource Center or PRC helps when families are going through custody changes or transitions at home after experiencing things like child abuse or domestic violence.
"Our primary goal is to preserve relationships between children and their non-custodial parent during a family transition either through monitored exchanges or monitored visitations," said PRC Executive Director, Gema Alvarado.
PRC stayed open during the pandemic and saw a 15% increase in families using PRC during 2020.
"Knowing that we were on the front lines willing to help families preserve relationships just spoke even more to the fact that were are an essential service to the community," said Alvarado.
All of these services are continuing to do their part and adapt to our new normal to help stop child abuse.
"It does take multiple agencies, law enforcement, and child protective services, medical, and mental health to really offer the services, it is up to families to choose most of the time if they want it, but to make those services available really to help parents be successful and enjoy raising their kids," said Dr. Graff.
Those at Olmsted County say we can all play a part in preventing child abuse, whether that is asking if a child is doing okay or noticing a change in their personality. These are ways that we as a community can help stop something that can help in any home.
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