The Indiana Department of Child Services is asking for the public’s help in keeping kids safe from abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic. DCS Director Terry Stigdon gave an update during state officials’ briefing Monday.
“We know COVID-19 has put unprecedented stress on families,” she said. “Many Hoosiers are confronting increased anxiety, underemployment, or unemployment. This makes our support for them more important than ever.”
In spite of all of that, Stigdon said calls to the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline have dropped by more than 40 percent since April of last year. “And no, unfortunately, we don’t believe this is because children are not being harmed,” she added. “COVID-19 forced the early closure of schools and many community activities. Because of this, we provided tips for teachers, so they could help be on the lookout for signs of abuse and neglect when they connect with their students virtually.”
Stigdon explained that the DCS continues to investigate all allegations of abuse and neglect in person, but is conducting many routine follow-up meetings virtually. Details about efforts to expand the support provided to older foster youth are expected to be announced in the coming days.
Still, Stigdon stressed that the DCS needs the public’s help. “We have a collective responsibility to support families and keep children safe,” she said. “We must come together to care for those in our communities who need us. Reach out to those who may be struggling. Offer to help. Small efforts – a bag of groceries, a kind word – can have big results.”
Indiana’s child abuse and neglect hotline can be reached at 1-800-800-5556.