Are we seeing less child abuse?

The number of child abuse investigations is on the decline, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book, a compilation of data on child well-being overseen in Michigan by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

In Alpena and Montmorency counties, Children’s Protective Services investigations decreased by about a quarter and a third, respectively, in 2020, then hovered at the same number the following year, News staff writer Julie Riddle reported.

In Alcona County, CPS investigated 100 fewer families in 2021 than in 2020.

Presque Isle County investigations decreased by a third in 2020 and by another quarter in 2021.

A decline in child abuse investigations can mean a few things: a.) CPS isn’t investigating when it should, b.) less child abuse is happening, or c.) child abuse is still happening, but isn’t getting reported.

Officials expected to see a decline in 2020 as at-home schooling during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic meant kids spent less time out in public, where signs of abuse might get spotted and reported. But the continued 2021 decline surprised some people, who expected to see abuse rise again as kids returned to in-class learning more often.

Brad Somers, executive director for the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena, told Riddle the club’s employees, all mandated reporters, have had to report fewer cases of suspected child abuse or neglect recently than in past years. That could be one piece of evidence that investigations have declined because less abuse is happening.

Whatever the cause of the decline, we each can play a role in helping to prevent child abuse by supporting our neighbors, helping out with child care or groceries or whatever else our neighbors might need. That can relieve some of the stresses that officials say contributes to child abuse.

“Be a support system for your friends and family,” said Catherine Knoch, director of operations at the Boys and Girls Club. “Be a support system for a person you don’t know. Because that can be a preventative measure so something bad does not happen.”


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