In 2021 the Children’s Advocacy Center of Portage County provided free services to 337 individuals, 175 children and 162 non-offending caregivers. Although significant service numbers are being delivered this is a decrease in referrals from previous years (26%). The CAC of Portage County is not the only CAC experiencing this decrease. The National Children’s Alliance, the accreditation agency for children’s advocacy centers, researched these findings and data indicates this decrease is, in part, an impact of Covid-19. The following statistics are based on the National Children’s Alliance annual statistical review of United States children advocacy centers. 88% of children are abused at home by parents, parent’s partners or relatives. 2/3rds of children receiving services are referred by teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc. During Covid-19 many of these activities stopped or significantly changed. Leading to fewer referral sources. Across the nation 40,000 less children received services during the first half of 2020. Although the nation is beginning to return to normal, many of these same referral sources are now understaffed, have new inexperienced staff, or families have not returned children to extracurricular activities, continuing the decrease in referrals.
The population of Portage County is 162,466, with 37,367 being children as reported by the 2019 census. In Ohio, 1 in 4 children will be physically abused/neglected. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused and 60% will never disclose. Taking these statistics into account, just under 3% of possible child sexual abuse victims are being served by the CAC.
CAC data supports combined local and national statistics, as well as, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) research indicating that child abuse significantly increases the risk for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, suicidal thoughts/attempts, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, homelessness, juvenile delinquency, and human trafficking risk. ACEs can also have a tremendous impact on lifelong health, opportunity, and wellbeing if left untreated, increasing risks of injury, future violence, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, limited employment opportunities, all lending to an economic impact of approximately $200,000 per victim. CAC services significantly reduce these impacts with early intervention, prevention services, and awareness.
Children receive CAC services predominantly through referral from law enforcement and children services. Anyone can make a report of suspected child abuse to children services through the CARES Line at 330-296-2273. You can make reports anonymously. For training on mandated reporting, prevalence of child abuse, or the CAC please contact Leanne.Biltz@UHHospitals.org.