Iowa DHS: Drop in abuse, neglect reports is ‘concerning’

By: - April 15, 2020 3:13 pm

Kelly Garcia, Director of Iowa Department of Human Services speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Johnston. (Photo by Brian Powers/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

A drop in reports of abuse and neglect of children and vulnerable adults may actually be a sign of trouble, Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, said Wednesday.

“At DHS, we’re paying really close attention to abuse reports, which sadly, have dropped,” Garcia said Wednesday during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ news conference.

“To be clear, as the governor mentioned, we don’t believe that abuse has gone away — but the reports have,” Garcia said. “Teachers, doctors and other mandatory reporters are not seeing children and vulnerable adults like they normally would. And this is concerning.”

Parenting can be a daily challenge under the best of circumstances, Garcia said. And now, families may be facing the possible loss of a job or working multiple jobs on the front lines, lack of internet access for children to participate in educational programming and food insecurity.

“While many are taking this time to add precious memories at home, we recognize that not everyone in our society can telecommute from the safety of their home while doing Pinterest crafts with their children and making precious memories,” she said

Garcia said while DHS is closely monitoring the situation, it’s also working to raise awareness in the public. She said the department is working with the Iowa Department of Education and school districts across the state to encourage comfort calls to students.

“We’re also putting out the call to communities, neighbors, faith-based organizations, and all Iowans: If you hear something or see something, say something,” she said.

“Pay attention to the sounds in your neighborhood. Reach out to the children and vulnerable adults in your life by phone or video call. Make sure they know that they’re supported, loved and listened to,” she said.

Iowans who believe someone is in imminent danger should call 911 immediately, she said. Iowans who suspect a child or dependent adult is being abused or neglected are asked to call the abuse hotline at 1-800-362-2178, available 24 hours a day. More information is available at the DHS website.

Resources for families needing assistance with finding child care, food assistance, Medicaid, mental health resources and more can find a list on the DHS coronavirus website.

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