Recently, the committee for Aging Children and Youth and Military affairs received the annual report on Crimes Against Children from Arkansas State Police.
The subject matter is difficult for anyone to review, but the report provides valuable information to our legislators in helping to draft laws to protect our children.
The report revealed that in 2012 there were 62,052 calls made to the Child Abuse Hotline in Arkansas. Of those calls 38,368 were accepted as valid allegations of abuse or neglect and case workers were assigned.
This is a sharp increase from just 4 years ago. In 2008, 51,592 calls were made to the hotline and just under 30,000 were accepted as valid allegations.
Abuse can be physical or sexual. It includes non-accidental physical injury, shaking a baby, tying a child up, and giving or exposing a child to alcohol or other drugs. Reasonable and moderate discipline (such as spanking) is generally not considered abuse as long as it does not cause injury more serious than transient pain or minor temporary marks and is administered by a parent or guardian.
Neglect is failing to provide for appropriate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care for a child. It is also failing to provide an education for a child. Neglect also includes failing to prevent abuse of a child. Leaving a child in a situation that puts the juvenile at risk of harm, such as leaving a young child alone at home or in a vehicle, is also considered neglect.
It could be easy to look at the recent report and say that child abuse is increasing in our state, but that may not necessarily be the case.
Captain Ron Stayton, who is the Crimes Against Children Division Commander explained that the increase is largely due to more reporting. Over the years, the legislature has worked to increase mandated reporting in the state.
In 2009, the legislature added rape crisis advocates or volunteers, child abuse advocates or volunteers and victim/witness coordinators to the growing list of mandated reporters.
We continued to strengthen our reporting laws this previous session by passing Act 784. This requires the Child Abuse Hotline to accept reports of injury to a child’s intellectual, emotional, or psychological development from a guidance counselor licensed as a teacher.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services has extensive tools and tips designed to help parents prevent abuse and help others to look for the warning signs. You can find that information at www.stoparchildabuse.com
And if you suspect a child is being abused, you can call the hotline at 1-800-482-5964. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.