Last Modified: Friday, July 13, 2012 10:49 AM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The statewide child abuse and neglect hotline has received 114,000 calls in its first year, and more than 50,000 of those calls reported suspected abuse or neglect, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services said Thursday.
The hotline — 1-855-4LA-KIDS — is both for people required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect, such as law enforcement officials, clergy, health practitioners and teachers, and for the general public.
It replaced a long list of parish and regional phone numbers and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 41 trained child welfare specialists, said department Secretary Suzy Sonnier.
"The hotline serves as a single, easy to use number that is linked to a centralized child abuse intake system allowing our staff to more quickly respond, and to manage reports more efficiently and more consistently," she said.
The department said the ease of use of the hotline and the awareness of how important it is to report such problems is the main reason that the number of child abuse reports each month has been 11 percent to 22 percent above the number for the same month a year earlier.
The hotline is meant to ensure that no reports are missed and that each report of child abuse or neglect is handled promptly, uniformly and well.
Stacie LeBlanc of New Orleans' Audrey Hepburn Care Center is among those required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. She said she's had to spend much less time waiting on line since the hotline was launched.
"The child welfare specialists who staff the hotline are highly trained and professional, and this definitely assures more consistency across parish lines in responding to reports. It gives the same level of safety to children across the state no matter where they live," she said.
The department said that about 64,000 callers sought information or were referred to other services or agencies. More than 50,158 were further evaluated as reports of child abuse or neglect.