Child Abuse Prevention Month: Advocacy Center brings awareness

NORFOLK, Neb. -  An advocacy center in northeast Nebraska is taking strides to bring awareness to the community. 

April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

"One of the big focuses that we have here at the Child Advocacy Center is that child abuse really is a community issue," Abbi Shanle, Child Abuse Prevention Specialist said. "It takes all of us in the community to really address it."

Shanle says they've seen an increase in drug-related cases.

"A lot of times what we are seeing is kids who are a product of a drug-endangered environment," Shanle said. "An environment where either illegal substances are being used, produced, or sold."

The center also saw a 20 percent increase in interviews from 2019 to 2020.

"We provide forensic interviews for children," Shanle said. "We serve children ages three through 18 with forensic interviews."

Shanle says the Center saw a change in numbers during the pandemic.

"What we saw is that the reports to the hotline and to law enforcement really decreased," she said. "We were not seeing as many reports on child abuse. However, our numbers here at the Center, we were seeing as many if not more through even those early months of the pandemic."

She says it could be due to multiple factors.

"Those kids aren't as visible," she said. "They're not necessarily in those daycare or school settings where you have those mandatory reporters. A lot of therapy providers went to telehealth. So you're not seeing those kids face-to-face."

Shanle says since the schools have been opening up, they are already seeing an uptick in the number of cases reported. 

Currently, the center is promoting "Wear Blue Fridays" to encourage awareness this month. 

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