ST. LOUIS, MO. / APRIL 01, 2021/ Lutheran Family and Children’s Services (LFCS) is working to address the negative effects the pandemic has had on children and families across the state of Missouri. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, presenting an opportunity to spread awareness and provide resources that promote safety, stability, and well-being for all children across Missouri. In 2020, more than 56,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported across the state, involving more than 78,000 children, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division 2020 Annual Report.
LFCS reported a 91 percent overall increase in calls for help in 2020. After lockdowns began in March 2020, Missouri’s Child Abuse Prevention Hotline saw a 50 percent decrease in third party reporting as children had fewer interactions with teachers and other mandated reporters. The increased stress on families from issues such as job instability, illness, and isolation caused by the pandemic magnified the risk for children.
Through innovative and comprehensive programs, LFCS works to address the needs of families at risk. These programs facilitate the pursuit of stable living conditions, higher education, and employment, as well as providing counseling and education to manage life stressors. Services offered by LFCS include:
Parenting Services offered at no cost for any family with children age five and under that includes one-on-one assistance to help parents and children thrive;
- Behavioral Health Services with professional and affordable counseling services for families and individuals of all ages;
- Foster Care Services that advocate for children and provide safe, loving homes where children are well cared for;
- Hilltop Child and Family Development Center, located in North St. Louis with specialized learning plans for each child and a range of services for families such as parenting courses, individual and family counseling, and high-quality childcare.
Those who have utilized these programs reported improved parenting skills, enhanced mental and physical health, and an improved sense of stability all of which lend to a reduction in abuse and neglect.
“LFCS is committed to serving children and families across the state who have been under increased stress as a result of the pandemic,” said Mike Duggar, President and CEO of LFCS. “Our core programs address the challenges children and families face today to reduce future incidents of abuse and neglect. By proactively equipping parents with positive approaches and coping mechanisms, we can together work to decrease these troubling statistics.”
LFCS aims to reduce and prevent child maltreatment in Missouri communities and encourages the public to help them in their fight. There are several ways to help:
- Wear Blue on April 1: Blue is the official color of prevention, and by wearing blue in solidarity with LFCS and April Child Abuse Prevention Month on Thursday, April 1, and every Friday during April, you can bring awareness to your network. Be sure to post a photo of you wearing blue, tag @LFCSMO and use #saferstrongertogether.
- See Something, Say Something: Special vigilance is needed during this pandemic, and anyone can report suspected neglect or abuse to The Department of Social Services by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738.
- Become a foster parent: LFCS and other agencies across the state can assist interested individuals in becoming a foster parent to provide temporary safe, loving homes for children in crisis. There are 13,000 Missouri children that currently need foster care. To learn more, visit https://lfcsmo.org/foster-care.
Visit https://lfcsmo.org/end-abuse-in-mo for more information on how to get involved.