April 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA
Child Abuse Reports Drop; Reality is Likely Opposite
OICA Encourages Vigilance During “Child Abuse Prevention Month” and Beyond
Every year, April is “Child Abuse Prevention Month,” and it is especially important that – as the month ends – we keep child abuse prevention at top of mind now and throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
As the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy has monitored reporting of incidents of child abuse, we have noticed that the numbers have dropped significantly during the shelter-in-place orders. On its face, this looks like it might be a good thing; the reality is much more concerning.
Many child abuse reports come from people outside the home – teachers, caregivers, and health care professionals to name a few – who notice something amiss with a child. They see things like bruises, lacerations, or changes in behavior and report those changes to the proper authorities. During the shelter-in-place orders, these individuals outside the home have not seen the children, meaning that the indicators of abuse go unreported.
This is not an Oklahoma problem alone; it is nationwide. In our weekly emailed newsletter, OICA has tried to keep this issue at the forefront, including press reports about how teachers who are now involved in distance learning can keep their eyes out for possible abuse, as well as reports on the real reason reporting numbers are dropping during the crisis. The truth of the matter is most child abuse experts believe there are more incidents of child abuse or neglect happening during COVID-19, not fewer.
So, the responsibility falls to all of us to keep our eyes open in our neighborhoods and communities for any evidence a child is being abused. In this time, a watchful neighbor may be the only thing standing between an abused child and serious or perhaps fatal injury.
This is our responsibility as people who care about the wellbeing of all our children. Please, if you see something, say something. Local child protection investigators are considered essential employees and on duty to help look into allegations of abuse reported by caring individuals.
Finally this week, it looks like the budget impasse at the State Capitol will go on a bit longer. There was some movement last week as the Board of Equalization met to declare a revenue failure, allowing the money moved by the Legislature from the Rainy Day Fund to plug budget holes for this fiscal year.
The budget for next year is still up in the air. The Board of Equalization estimates lawmakers will have $1.3 billion less for next year than originally estimated – $6.8 billion down from $8.1 billion. Legislative budget writers seemed skeptical of the number and questioned how the Board of Equalization came up with their shortfall numbers. In short, the stage has been set for another showdown over the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
OICA will monitor this situation, as well as all the goings on at the State Capitol that could affect the quality of life for Oklahoma’s children. We invite you to go to our website – oica.org – and sign up for our weekly Child Advocacy Chat so you can be among those keeping up with the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19, the U.S. Census, and children’s issues. We hear directly from subject experts and state leaders, and this is a service OICA is proud to provide.
Have a great week, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay socially distant.
Child Statistic of the Week: Oklahoma is estimated to have 95,000 children under the age of 5 living in hard-to-count Census tracts, which is more than a third of those children. Statistic provided by Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care.