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 2021, a bipartisan bill that would give the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) the authority to award $2 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 received more than 100,000 calls, 7,500 web chats, and 4,000 text contacts in fiscal year 2020.  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.

 

“Child abuse is preventable, and the National Child Abuse Hotline’s prevention and intervention activities are both successful and well-documented,” said Senator Collins.  “Federal support for the Hotline will improve our ability to reach children of all ages, as well as parents or caregivers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.  I urge my colleagues to support the adoption of this important legislation that could save lives.”

 

“Funding a National Child Crisis Hotline helps prevent child abuse and support survivors—an especially important goal as we continue to navigate the pandemic which has increased the demand on family and child services,” said Senator Sinema.

 

"It is up to all of us to ensure our communities are safe for our country's most vulnerable children. We thank Senators Collins and Sinema for their hard work on this bill, which will establish much needed support during this critical time when so many children are trapped in unsafe situations. Our children are our future, and any effort to protect and provide resources now will surely pay off in a better world tomorrow," said Childhelp Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO Sara O'Meara.

 

On average, five children die every day from child abuse and neglect.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Maltreatment Report, 656,000 children were victims of child abuse and neglect in 2019 and a heartbreaking 1,770 children died—including three young children in Maine.  The many stresses created by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated conditions for vulnerable children, and could show a worsening crisis in the years to come.    

 

After the pandemic began, calls, texts, and chats to the National Child Abuse Hotline spiked as high as forty percent.  This increase is attributed to more families and children being stuck at home and isolated from mandated reporters such as teachers, pediatricians, and others who may notice signs of abuse or neglect.  Additionally, while the number of emergency department visits related to child abuse and neglect decreased in 2020, the percentage of visits severe enough to require hospitalization increased.  Better access to prevention and intervention services could help stop these troubling trends.

 

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline—1-800-4-A-CHILD—saw call volume increase by more than 40 percent when comparing May 2020 to May 2019.  Childhelp’s text and online chat platform, which is supported in part by a $1 million ACF Innovation Grant that Senator Collins has advocated for as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, assisted nearly 200 callers in Maine fiscal year 2019. 

 

###