Post-Pandemic Surge in Child Abuse Cases
In 2019 there were 42,160 reported cases of sexual and physical abuse of children in L.A. County. In 2020, during the pandemic, the number of reports dropped 16% to 35,364. This same trend was reflected in our own numbers when we interviewed 717 child victims in 2019 only to see referrals drop 24% (544) in 2020 and again in 2021 (502). A surge in child abuse reports will inevitably occur as mandated reporting and court case processes normalize. To meet this increased demand for our services we will need to hire qualified forensic interviewers.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
San Gabriel Valley
County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Expand existing project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
We believe the reduction of child abuse reports during the pandemic has been a direct consequence of children being in and out of school and/or not participating in youth organizations or organized sports where the discovery and mandated reporting of child abuse is most prevalent. Sadly, despite the lower number of reports, the cases we've supported during the pandemic have also been more violent and have included increases in multi-sibling abuse. We believe the well-being of each victim of sexual and/or physical abuse, and the minimizing of any additional trauma to them, is paramount to any investigation of child abuse. Our ability to minimize the trauma experienced by these young victims and their non-offending family members, while providing the high-quality forensic interviewing and advocacy services to their case investigators, will be determined by the number of qualified forensic interviewers we are able to hire.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Forensic interviewers must be certified in nationally-recognized interviewing protocols and techniques. It also preferable they be trained in trauma-focused mental health disciplines. In order to continue being prepared for a surge in child abuse referrals and requests for forensic interviews, I am proposing the recruitment and hiring of 2 additional part-time forensic interviewers with these qualifications to provide interviewing support for 48 additional hrs. per week. The opportunity to increase forensic interviewer resources would enable us to support a greater share of the child abuse investigations in L.A. County. The addition of 2 qualified forensic interviewers for 12 months would significantly improve our ability to process expected increases in referrals. Each part-time (24 hrs. per week) interviewer can support 6 interviews per week (2/day). Over a 7-month period this would equate to about 336 additional interviews we could provide. This many additional interviews would equal a 67% increase over the 502 forensic interviews we conducted last year and more closely approximate the annual number of pre-pandemic referrals we received in 2019 (717). Under this proposal, we would request funding to cover compensation and benefits for 2, additional part-time forensic interviewers for 7+ months.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
In 2019 DCFS reported 42,160 cases of sexual and physical abuse of children in L.A. County. In 2020, during the pandemic, this number dropped 16% to 35,364. Now the number of reports is beginning to increase once again as mandated reporting channels at schools and in youth organizations begin to open up and court backlogs begin to clear. Currently, in addition to ours, there are only 6 other CACs supporting forensic interviewing and advocacy services for the investigation of these thousands of child abuse cases across L.A. County. Even in down years like 2020 and 2021, the sheer number of cases mean each CAC can potentially face many, many more cases than it can currently handle. We need to be prepared to support the demand for more case investigations. *https://dcfs.lacounty.gov/resources/data-and-monthly-fact-sheets/
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
The impact of our services are measured by the feedback we receive from the victims and families we support, as well as the feedback we receive from case investigators in law enforcement, Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), and L.A. County District Attorneys. We offer surveys to both constituent groups so we can gather measurable evidence that our services are making a difference. Survey results are reviewed and shared with our Board 2-3 times per year. We have received consistently positive feedback from both. We also conduct monthly case reviews in which members of the investigative teams meet and discuss cases and their dispositions. Investigators are provided the opportunity to provide constructive feedback to the forensic interviewers about the effectiveness of the interviews and how much they contributed to case outcomes. When arrests are made and cases are filed, our staff is able to learn how their services contributed to the convictions.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 624
Indirect Impact: 3,120