WHP-TV: Experts say reports of children in danger on the rise

Dauphin County, PA — Reports of children in danger are rising.

“We see an increase in violence, you know, every single day,” Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance President and CEO Angela Liddle told CBS 21 News’ Samantha York. “And, unfortunately, a lot ends up being directed toward children.”

Pennsylvania is seeing a 7% increase of Child Protective Services reports in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021.

“Kids are more engaged now in what they normally would have been involved with,” Liddle continued. “And so that puts them in contact with mandated reporters.”

The reason, in part, is because children are around mandated reporters again.

But economic stressors play a hand, too.

“People are facing struggles and challenges probably more than they ever have before,” Liddle added.

“People who are already struggling and, you know, lack of child care, lack of access to healthy food, any food,” UPMC Child Advocacy Center of Central Pennsylvania Director of Operations Dr. Lynn Carson explained. “But just puts them into even worse conditions.”

Childcare, employment, food security and substance use during the pandemic are all of increased concern.

“Just really can push people over the edge,” Dr. Carson continued.

The state’s most recently released child abuse data is from 2020. Almost 4,600 Pennsylvanian children were injured that year. 115 were nearly killed. 73 young lives were lost.

“Fatalities are down a little bit from their all-time high of 2020,” Liddle said. “The near fatalities are still pretty high and a good percentage- the majority of those are neglect cases.”

As a result of the increased need for resources, the UPMC Child Advocacy Center of Central Pennsylvania is expanding its reach.

“Our Harrisburg office is so busy all the time, it’s hard to get kids in,” Dr. Carson said. “We like to try to get a child in five days and, right now, we’re at about three weeks.”

The Center is bringing on an additional facility in Cumberland County this August.

“We have two therapists, we could probably keep six therapists busy,” Dr. Carson continued. “And so that’s our goal, to increase our mental health services.”

The aim is to make help more accessible for investigators and children in need.

“You have to tell yourself, you know, ‘If I don’t do this, who will?’” Liddle explained.

Experts say signs of abuse in children may not be something as easily seen as bruises. Signs of abuse, neglect and sexual abuse can include a dramatic behavior change, developmental regression or feelings of depression and isolation in a child.

The ChildLine helpline number is 1-800-932-0313. The UPMC Child Advocacy Center in Harrisburg can be reached at 717-782-6800. To learn about Family First and how to report potential child abuse or neglect, visit www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov.

The state’s annual child abuse report is set to be released in May. Data lags a year, so this report will reflect the case numbers from 2021.

From WHP-TV, April 19, 2022

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