CINCINNATI (WKRC) - There has been a drop in the number of reported child abuse cases since the pandemic began.
Local centers report that during 2020, reported case numbers were the lowest they've been in a decade.
Scott O'Reilly said a lot of abuse has gone unnoticed while many kids have been away from school, friends, and other family.
Hospital rooms at Mercy Health Clermont will be part of the future Little Fork Family Advocacy Center. O'Reilly, the center's executive director, said the team has been working on the project for eight years -- and that it couldn't come at a better time.
"There has been approximately a little more than a 20% decline in cases while COVID has been going on. That is an outlier because that is significantly less over the last 10-year trend," said O'Reilly.
Over the course of a few months, the space will be transformed to house 20 different organizations that work with victims of child abuse and domestic violence, people struggling with drug addiction, and anyone who needs counseling.
"Instead of giving them 82 numbers to try to navigate through the system, I walk them to the next door and say, 'This is Child Focus, they're going to take you from here,'" said O'Reilly.
Having a one-stop facility nearby could make a huge difference for families in Clermont, Brown, and Adams County, and beyond.
"Some of our families don't know how to drive downtown. That presents a lot of fear of how to navigate this really complex system," said Erika Yingling, a member of the advisory board for the Little Fork Family Advocacy Center.
And as children go back to school and some sense of normalcy returns, the center is prepared to get busy.
"We are going to see these cases skyrocket, and we're also going to see our young people with more mental health instability," said Yingling.
The space is expected to be ready some time between late summer and early fall. The center's first big event is a free lunch and seminar on combatting stigma surrounding first responders, law enforcement, and lawyers.
It takes place on June 18, and will feature Clermont County Deputy Nick DeRose, who was shot in the line of duty in 2019.