Reports of child abuse usually decrease during summer months, but that doesn’t mean there actually are fewer incidents.
Calls to the Voices of Courage Child Advocacy Center decrease by about 25% over the summer. That’s partly because students aren’t in school, and school staff often are the ones to make reports, Voices of Courage Executive Director Melissa Birdsell said.
“Normally I would say that’s not concerning because it happens every year,” she said. “But once ... we saw what happened with the numbers during the pandemic, and what happened with kiddos that were home unchecked, and how we found out about the abuse that was going on at that time, now it’s a little concerning because it doesn’t feel normal.”
Despite the usual trend, last month had more calls than expected. There typically are 50 to 55 reports in May, but this May there were 67, Birdsell said.
“That was a bit of a jump for just one month, and so it could be that there are just a lot of calls coming in for the end of the school year,” she said. “It could be that, you know, it starts getting warmer out and kids are out running around.”
The numbers haven’t been fully analyzed but it could be that more reports were made by neighbors or family members, Birdsell said.
Reports also can result from other incidents. Sometimes they will occur when law enforcement is following up on a different call, but officers notice something concerning, Birdsell said.
Summer is an ideal time for school staff and daycare providers to take classes on how to spot child abuse, Birdsell said.
“It’s a great time to schedule those types of prevention education pieces so that your workers are as up to date as they can be when they start working with kids again,” she said. “So that they can keep their eyes open, and all of us do our part to keep kids safe.”
Organizations can call the center at 816-232-1744 to schedule classes, Birdsell said.