Tallapoosa County Department of Human Resources director Brenda Floyd is cautiously optimistic about child abuse in the last year.
Data related to child abuse investigations is down for the year in Tallapoosa County. But Floyd and her staff at DHR believe some cases went unreported as children were absent from school for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t think abuse was down,” Floyd said. “I think because of COVID for several months, initially we did see a drop. We know abuse was going on. That was one one thing that was really disturbing to us because we believe it wasn’t being reported.”
Floyd said the Tallapoosa County DHR reviewed more than 265 cases of alleged child sexual abuse and child abuse affecting nearly 450 children in Tallapoosa County. Floyd said in 2019 the department looked into 325 cases affecting nearly 500 children.
“We had a little bit of a decrease from the year before,” Floyd said.
Floyd said educators have more contact with children than most anybody else and are great at helping DHR recognize early signs of abuse. Floyd said she believes the school closures led to the under reporting of abuse in Tallapoosa County.
“It just tells us how important it is what our teachers, coaches, our community professionals, the folks our kids are working with, how important that is,” Floyd said. “Our school professionals are vital to us. The teachers, nurses, coaches, everyone working with our children, we have a wonderful relationship with our schools. They are really good if they suspect something to call us and let us check it out. They are our eyes and ears. They see these children on a daily basis. They know if there is a change. I’m appreciative of what our education systems have done for us.”
Floyd said Tallapoosa County DHR works with the Tri-County Child Advocacy Center in abuse cases. Last year Tri-County performed 92 forensic interviews of children and did 17 pediatric sexual assault exams and conducted 687 counseling sessions with children in suspected child abuse cases.
Floyd said other counties saw similar decreases during the pandemic.
“Everyone saw a drop last year for several months,” Floyd said. “Toward the late summer and fall, (reports) started picking back up. COVID, we all feel like it was very much unreported for several months.”
Floyd said it is imperative everyone takes part in preventing abuse and reporting suspected child abuse.
“Prevention remains the best defense for our children and families,” Floyd said. “We must work together. Communities must make every effort to promote programs and activities that create strong and thriving children and families.”
Floyd said child abuse affects all parts of society.
“Child abuse is a serious issue affecting every segment of our community,” Floyd said. “Finding solutions requires input and action from everyone.”
Floyd said DHR welcomes calls about any suspicions.
“If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you don’t have to investigate,” Floyd said. “We urge you to call Tallapoosa County DHR or law enforcement. You can be anonymous and let us investigate.”