Child Abuse Reporting Down 30% in Tennessee


“Across the state of Tennessee calls handled by the child abuse hotline staff are down 30.4% from March 1 to April 18, 2020 compared to this same time period last year,” announced Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols.

Department of Children’s Services works as a team with the Child Advocacy Center, local law enforcement, and the District Attorney’s Office to respond to child abuse cases, keep children safe, investigate the crime, aggressively prosecute offenders, and help children and families heal from the trauma.

According to Child Advocacy Center director Sharon De Boer there are signs and symptoms of child abuse that family, friends, and neighbors may recognize that indicate that a child is being abused.

10 Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse:

1. Unexplained Injuries: Visible signs of child physical abuse such as bruises and burns

2. Changes in Behavior: A child may appear more afraid, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive

3. Returning to Earlier Behaviors: Behaviors that a child displayed at an earlier age such as thumb sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark, fear of strangers

4. Fear of Going Home: Fear or anxiety about going home or other places with the person who is abusing them

5. Changes in Eating: Changes in a child’s eating may lead to weight gain or loss

6. Changes in Sleeping: Children may have nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued

7. Changes in School Performance or School Attendance: Difficulty concentrating in school or excessive absences

8. Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene: Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for, dirty, body odor, or lack sufficient clothing for the weather

9. Risk Taking Behaviors: Youth who are abused may engage in risk taking behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon

10. Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors: Children who have been sexually abused may be sexually promiscuous, exhibit overly sexualized behavior, or use explicit sexual language

“TCA 37-1-403 Requires the reporting of child physical abuse and TCA 37-1-605 requires the reporting of child sexual abuse,” stated District Attorney General Jennings H. Jones. Everyone in the state of Tennessee is a mandatory reporter of child abuse. You do not have to have evidence that a child is being abuse. If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused it is your legal responsibility to report those suspicions to the Department of Children’s Services or local law enforcement.”

During the COVID 19 pandemic, children and families are under mandatory stay at home orders from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Murfreesboro Mayor McFarland, and Rutherford County Mayor Ketron. During the stay at home orders, it is critical for our community to pay attention to the children and youth in your neighborhood and watch for the signs and symptoms of child abuse.

“The way to get help for child abuse victims, child sexual abuse victims, and children who are being exposed to their parent’s drug use is to start by making a telephone call to the Department of Children’s Services at 1-877-237-0004. If a child is in immediate danger please call 911,” concluded Rutherford County Department of Children’s Services Team Leader Taminko Amuzu. “This will activate the Child Protective Investigative Team that works together to keep children safe in our community.”

For more information, contact the Child Advocacy Center at 615-867-9000.