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COOS BAY — The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline was launched in 2018 and is making progress in bettering the system to continue helping children.

According to a press release from the Oregon Department of Human Services, there has been “significant progress in protecting Oregon’s children by implementing a system that ensures the best possible safety decisions, calls are handled consistently, and that callers are respected and responded to in a timely manner.”

The release explained that call rates have decreased and the average call wait is now shorter. In its first year, the hotline has received over 98,000 calls.

“As the hotline reflects on progress made during its first year, we also acknowledge that there is still much room for improvement,” said DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht in the release. “We will continue to use data, customer feedback, predictive analytics and training to better serve and protect the children in our communities.”

In the last year, DHS partnered with Action for Child Protection, Portland State University, and other community partners to develop a 56-hour training for screeners, the release said.

“This training, along with the centralization, has increased screening consistency, decreased the potential for bias, and integrated robust and intentional data in the hotline’s efforts to keep children safe,” the release explained. “Along with predictive analytics and access to past reports from multiple sources, screeners now have more information in assessing safety for children at their fingertips.”

Screeners can now also receive reports of child abuse and neglect in multiple languages, the release added, made possible by “adding an additional queue for Spanish speakers to speak with Spanish speaking screeners this summer, more children are now represented and protected.”

“Other highlights of the hotline’s first year include the final hiring and training phase of 18 staff expected in November and newly created advanced screener training modules on Tribal Engagement, Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Substance Abuse Disorder and Domestic Violence,” the release said.

However, there have been challenges. Those have included wait times around seven minutes, seen once school started in September and calls spiked. In that time though, 60 percent of calls were able to be answered within two minutes.

“The maximum wait time in September was 100 minutes, an outlier in the month’s average data, and an issue DHS is addressing,” the release said.

To use the hotline to report abuse, call 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

“This toll-free number allows you to report abuse of any child or adult to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,” the release said. “You can also report child abuse by calling a local police department, county sheriff, county juvenile department, or Oregon State Police.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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