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With youth returning to class, calls to child abuse hotlines expected to rise

Every Child Central Oregon calls for community support

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The return to school is no doubt exciting for many, after months of distance learning amid our pandemic times. However, Every Child Central Oregon (ECCO), a regional nonprofit that mobilizes community to help address Central Oregon’s foster care needs, knows a stark reality — that some youth have been experiencing abuse and neglect to such extremes that an uptick in reports is expected along with the return to the classroom.

In fact, incredible strain has already been placed on the foster care system over the past year. While the uncertainty and grief of COVID-19 has impacted all, the compounding trauma it brought to the state’s 10,800+ youth in foster care has been unparalleled:

  • Increased disruption of home placements due to COVID-19 spread
  • In-person visitations with biological families interrupted
  • Critical structure and mentorship from school, counseling and athletic support halted
  • Shattered economic opportunity for youth participating in independent learning programs
  • Economic strain and adjusted realities for foster families who care for these youth

In Central Oregon, the growing need for foster care services has increased annually with approximately 400 children spending a night in foster care in the past year alone. And with the return to school, teachers, who are mandatory reporters for child abuse and neglect, could be placing more calls to the child abuse hotline in the coming months at an alarming rate, according to Melissa Williams, ECCO’s director.

“When school is back in session, we’ll once again have ‘eyes on kids,’” Williams says. “During COVID-19, child abuse authorities did see a significant drop in hotline calls because if you cannot see children in person, it’s hard to pick up on what may be going on.

"The good news is that our community organizations and systems are prepared to assist these youth in whatever ways we can. Meanwhile, we feel it’s important to support those organizations, including Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), as it could be a taxing experience for their team. This is a time when everyone needs to feel reinforced and lifted.”

In an effort to get ahead of this projected need, Williams wants to remind the community that it can provide support in ways big and small, of which all are greatly appreciated:

  • Joining My NeighbOR, a program that connects goods and services from community members to foster families and youth in foster care
  • Donating money to support foster care services
  • Applying to provide foster care
  • Volunteering to provide ODHS staff appreciation (snacks, lunches, coffee, etc.) along with ECCO’s guidance
  • Putting together a foster care “box” (Welcome Boxes, Launch Boxes and Flash Boxes) or clothing bundles, which make the recipient’s experience more manageable and positive

“We pretty much have a way to give or help for anyone willing to do so,” Williams says. “The current need is already alarmingly high, and we expect there to only be more once kids return to school and there’s greater transparency about their welfare. We’re asking community members who can help us prepare for and meet this need to do so.”
To lend a hand, contact ECCO directly at 541.610.9455. Or, learn more by visiting ECCO’s website: https://everychildcentraloregon.org/

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