SPECIAL SERIES THIS WEEK: All this week, KVAL News will bring you special reports on the problem of child abuse and neglect on the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. nightly news and on KVAL.com.
COMING UP WEDNESDAY ON KVAL NEWS @ 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. and KVAL.com: A victim of child abuse talks about what life was like - and how he was able to recover and move on.
EUGENE, Ore. -- Write down this phone number: (541) 686-7555.
A call to this hotline can stop child abuse.
Between 800 and 900 people call Lane County's child welfare hotline every month, and those numbers are only going up.
Chris Sterling with the Department of Human Services said the number of calls have increased in the past year. One theory: the down economy has led to an increase in child abuse.
Sterling said it is important for families, neighbors and friends to look out for children. Before calling, she recommends writing out a list of your concerns.
"When you look at one or two concerns, you maybe not think you have enough of a reason to give us a call," she said. "But if you're documenting concerns and look at what you've documented over a month and there's a page of concerns, that's going to give you a lot more reason to give call us."
So what should you look for?
The Childhelp National child abuse hotline said signs of abuse or neglect can include:
- The child has unexplained injuries
- The child exhibits anti-social behavior
- The child might have problems in school
- The child is dirty or hasn't bathed
- The child is wearing unsuitiable clothing for weather
- The child is extremely hungry
- The child seems like no one is supervising him or her.
But spotting the signs is not always easy.
"I don't know that there are obvious signs of child abuse," said Tina Morgan, director of Kids First. Kids First is a center for abuse victims affiliated with the Lane County district attorney's office.
She said adults need to pay attention to anything that seems amiss about a child.
"Often times kids say, how come you never told anybody and they say, no one asked me," Morgan said.
If you do call the hotline, a call screener will ask you several questions like:
- What did you see or hear?
- How is the child being affected?
- What information do you have about the family?
They need that information to decide whether or not to investigate.
Sterling said it can be hard to get the information from some callers. She said sometimes adults are scared because they don't want to ruin relationships with friends or relatives.
"What we do say to those folks is, this isn't about you as an adult," she said. "This is about a vulnerable child, and you need to give us the information."
To report abuse concerns to Lane County DHS, call (541) 686-7555.
You can also call the Childhelp national hotline at 1-800-4-a-child.