Collins, Sinema Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Provide Federal Support for National Child Abuse Hotline

The National Child Abuse Hotline is currently operated by a nonprofit & is the only major national hotline without federal authorization & dedicated federal funding

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the National Child Abuse Help Hotline Act of 2020, a bipartisan bill that would give Administration for Children and Families (ACF) the authority to award $1 million annually to a nonprofit entity to support a 24-hour, national, toll-free telephone hotline that would provide information and assistance to victims of child abuse or neglect, parents, caregivers, mandated reporters, and other concerned community members. 

 

The National Child Abuse Hotline is currently operated by Childhelp, a non-profit based in Phoenix, Arizona.  The hotline receives about 100,000 calls a year and 1,000 text conversations a month.  It is the only major national hotline staffed primarily by masters-level social workers who are trained to provide crisis counseling to minors facing abuse.

 

“The child abuse and neglect crisis happening across the United States has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The National Child Abuse Hotline’s dedication to the prevention and intervention of child abuse and neglect is both successful and well-documented, and more federal support for this resource will improve our ability to reach children of all ages, as well as parents or caregivers in need,” said Senator Collins.  “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill, which would authorize critical investments now, helping to prevent the worst possible outcome—letting children fall through the cracks during an already traumatizing crisis.”

 

“Funding a National Child Crisis Hotline is critical for prevention efforts and supporting survivors of child abuse, especially during a pandemic which has increased the demand on family and child resources,” said Senator Sinema.

 

“We thank Senator Collins and Senator Sinema for their tireless work representing the crisis of America’s abused and neglected children during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time where America’s vulnerable youth are most at-risk,” said Childhelp Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Sara O’Meara. 

 

“We are seeing double-digit increases in our hotline calls each month from boys and girls self-reporting because mandated reporters like teachers cannot protect them from abusers, teens negotiating increased domestic violence in the home, and survivors in need of mental health resources,” said Childhelp Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman and President, Yvonne Fedderson.

 

On average, five children die every day from child abuse and neglect.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Maltreatment Report, which was published in January 2020, 678,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2018 and a heartbreaking 1,770 children died—including three in Maine and 48 in Arizona.  These statistics reflect an unfortunate increase in both child fatalities and victims of maltreatment, and is the first increase for the number of victims who suffered maltreatment since 2015.

 

In the first month after Maine schools closed their doors this spring and stay-at-home orders were put in place, calls to Maine Child and Family Services decreased by more than 30 percent and only seven percent of calls were from teachers and other school staff, a dramatic drop from what is typically the largest group who report abuse and neglect.  Yet, while reports of child abuse to state agencies designated to receive and investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect have decreased during the pandemic, calls to the National Child Abuse Hotline have skyrocketed.  Callers are children at risk of abuse, distressed parents seeking crisis intervention, and concerned individuals who suspect that child abuse may be occurring.

 

Last year, Childhelp provided services to more than 30,000 Arizona children and their families. After the pandemic began, calls, texts, and chats to the National Child Abuse Hotline spiked to as high as 31 percent and remain in the double digits every month. This increase is contributed to more families and children being stuck at home, isolated from mandated reporters such as teachers, pediatricians, and others who may notice signs of abuse. More parents and children in Arizona are also self-reporting and seeking support as they deal with isolation, financial, and health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.

 

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline—1-800-4-A-CHILD—saw call volume increase by 33 percent from February to May.  Childhelp’s text and online chat platform, which is supported by a $1 million ACF Innovation Grant that Senator Collins has advocated for as a member of the Appropriations Committee, experienced a 66 percent increase in outreach since February.  In Maine, where one in every 71 children is a victim of abuse, the National Child Abuse Hotline assisted nearly 200 callers in fiscal year 2019. 

 

Click HERE to read the text of the bill.

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