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National Child Abuse Awareness Month

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 11:23 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month and here in Maine, reports of suspected child abuse saw a drop during the early days of the pandemic. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard takes a look at what was behind the decline and what the state is doing to help prevent child abuse in the first place.

In the early days of the pandemic, during the initial wave of shutdowns and self-isolation, the number of calls reporting suspected child abuse dropped according to Dr. Adrienne Carmack, Medical Director for the Office of Child and Family Services.

“There was an initial drop of the reports coming in because we didn’t have the teachers, we didn’t have the childcare providers, people weren’t in the public. And there were sort of up and down of actual abuse and neglect when they were investigated. At different times during the pandemic we had different reports of wether there was more abuse, even nationwide there’s still reports coming out about that”

But Carmack says the drop in reports doesn’t necessarily mean that suspected child abuse went unreported during the pandemic.

“There was the downside of the loss of routine but there was the benefit of spending more family time and hopefully maybe families had better chances to connect with one another, so there’s been reports on both sides of whether there’s been more abuse that occurred so we’re still getting back data.”

And Carmack says preventing child abuse before it occurs is just as important as investigating reports of suspected child abuse, that’s the concept behind National Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“So national child abuse awareness month is really an opportunity to increase awareness around the prevention that we can all be a part of for child abuse. A couple of things that people can be aware of. One is ways that they can help prevent abuse and neglect and the other is ways that they should really be helping children that they have concerns about.”

According to Carmack, preventing abuse and neglect can be as simple as supporting other parents and families, and being there when they need help. That’s the concept behind Access Maine a collection of information and resources for parents who may need assistance, the State is hoping that providing easy access to those resources will reduce the number of reports they receive of suspected child abuse.

“The numbers for 2020, I think there were 24,000 abuse reports during 2020, and we’re still gathering our 2021 numbers. Not all reports are substantiated but it is important that people feel comfortable about making a report. And what we’re working really hard on in Maine, we’re a state that has implemented the family first service prevention act is really putting resources into prevention so that we are helping families that are identified as needing services, so we can help that family to be strong so then the child doesn’t have to come into foster care.”

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Data Dashboard, 2297 children were in State Custody as of December 2021, 199 of them from Aroostook County. And while prevention is the focus of National Child Abuse Awareness Month, Carmack also wants people to be aware of some of the signs of child abuse:

1. A child has questionable injuries

2. A young child is left alone or unsupervised

3. A child who has unattended health care problems or medical needs

4. A child doesn’t seem interested in things they normally would

5. A child shoes fear in a situation that is out of the norm for that child.

The Maine Department of Health and Human services urges anyone concerned about child abuse or neglect in their community to contact the Child Protective Hotline at 1-800-452-1999. Calls may be made anonymously 24 hours a day.

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