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Iowa DHS: Child abuse/neglect assessments increased by more than 5,000 in 2021

The agency says the uptick in cases is largely due to the pandemic.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Human Services recently released its 2021 child abuse data. According to it, child abuse and neglect assessments rose by 5,442 in 2021 compared to 2020. The agency 2021 is more in line with pr-pandemic numbers and believes the uptick is due to the pandemic. 

"There has been a lot of changes in the lives of children and the kids that we see," says forensic interviewer Victoria Ricke, who works at the MercyOne Child Advocacy Center in Sioux City. 

Ricke says while the number of children her center serves has not changed, there have been some differences. 

"We did see more of things that happened in families that probably wouldn't have happened had there not been so much stress placed on the family unit at the beginning," said Ricke. "A lot of time was spent together, people were really nervous and overwhelmed at things that were happening. And so there was more physical abuse or domestic violence. Kids, we're spending more time on the internet. So we saw a lot of internet crimes that happened and came to us."

As the school year comes to an end, and many kids are released on summer break - advocates worry about this time away from resources. 

"Schools do a lot more than teach kids how to read and do math," said Prevent Child Abuse Iowa Executive Director Greg Bellvile. "They provide environments where kids have peers that they can play with adults, that they can connect with school counselors food, shelter structure that goes away in a lot of cases during the summer."

But what can the public do to help? Advocates say it's as simple as checking in with the kids in your life. 

"Let kids know that you can talk to me about anything," said Ricke. "And no matter what you tell me, I'm not going to get upset, and you're not going to be in trouble with me. I just want to see how things are going."

"Child abuse, child maltreatment is 100%. preventable," said Bellville. "So we can do a lot just by as simply as reaching out to people who are struggling, or might not be struggling, but just checking in with your family and neighbors and ask them how they're doing."

If you suspect a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected please call:

  • The Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-362-2178 (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).  Please be ready to provide identifying information and the whereabouts of the child. You may remain anonymous unless you are making a report as a mandatory reporter. If you are making a report as a mandatory reporter, you must leave your name and contact information.

  • If you believe the child is in imminent danger, CALL 911 immediately.

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