PHOENIX – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation that would award $1 million each year to support a 24-hour, national, toll-free child abuse and neglect hotline.
The national hotline has been operated by Childhelp since 1982, when the first toll-free hotline was established in the United States.
The National Child Abuse Help Hotline Act of 2020 would give the Administration for Children and Families authority to support a national hotline that would provide assistance to victims of child abuse or neglect, parents, caregivers, mandated reporters, and other concerned community members.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline receives approximately 100,000 calls per year, as well as 1,000 text conversations per month. The hotline is operated 24/7 with degreed professional crisis counselors via call, text and online chat, with a call capability in more than 170 languages.
“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.
While official reports of child abuse have fallen across the country since the start of the pandemic, calls to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline have risen dramatically. After the pandemic began, calls, texts, and chats to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline spiked to as high as 43 percent and remain in the double digits every month. This increase is attributed to more families and children being stuck at home, isolated from mandated reporters, as well as parents seeking crisis resources and children self-reporting their 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.
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.
Last year, Childhelp provided services to more than 30,000 Arizona children and their families. 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.
Childhelp is honored to see bipartisan support for America’s at-risk youth receiving the critical intervention services required to rescue children in crisis, help manage mental health concerns for teens in quarantine, aid survivors and support family resilience.