DHS links media to drop in Oklahoma abuse cases

BY RANDY ELLIS Modified: October 30, 2008 at 1:20 am •  Published: October 30, 2008
Complaints of possible child abuse and neglect are on the rise in Oklahoma, but confirmed cases of abuse and neglect have declined.

The public reported a record 114,492 Oklahoma children as alleged victims of abuse or neglect in the fiscal year that ended June 30, state Department of Human Services officials wrote in the agency’s 2008 annual report released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the number of children confirmed by DHS workers as being victims of abuse or neglect dropped to a 10-year low of 11,714.

There were more than 13,000 confirmed cases each of the two previous years.

"I believe people have been reporting abuse and neglect more because it has been getting media attention,” said George Johnson, DHS spokesman.

Did parents change?
At the same time, Johnson said he thinks real instances of abuse and neglect have declined because potentially abusive parents have seen the same media reports and improved their behavior.

The agency only investigated 61,327 of the 114,492 alleged instances of abuse or neglect that were reported.

Johnson insisted that isn’t because of a lack of diligence by DHS workers.

A child welfare specialist reviews every complaint that is received, Johnson said.

Complaints screened
Complaints can be screened out for a variety of reasons.

For example, if a caller alleges a teacher or another child has abused a child, the complaint instead is referred to police and not investigated by DHS because the agency only investigates abuse by caretakers such as a parents, grandparents or baby sitters, Johnson said.

Also, many things people complain about do not fit within the categories of abuse or neglect, he said.

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