Santa Clara County Launches New Child Abuse Hotline

Santa Clara County officials declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, timing the announcement with the launch of a new 24-hour hotline for people to report suspected child abuse.

The new hotline will replace three separate phone numbers and streamline the service.

It should be noted, however, that this latest improvement is part of a longstanding effort to overhaul the county’s child abuse reporting system, which until the past few years was so woefully broken that it left an untold number of children in danger.

In 2013, the county’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) came under fire for dropping up to half the calls some months to its child abuse hotline. From July 2012 to the following year, call center operators answered an average of just 62 percent of calls. Only a third of the 18 percent of calls that went to voicemail were ever returned. About one in every five people hung up, frustrated by the hourlong holds.

It’s impossible to say how many valid abuse cases went unreported.

After San Jose Inside’s parent publication Metro Silicon Valley reported on the scathing 2013 audit, the county hired more call center employees and improve its hotline metrics.

“In years past ... there was a problem with the phone being answered,” county Child Abuse Prevention Council Vice Chair Steve Baron said in an interview earlier this week. “That problem has been largely rectified.”

Under new leadership, DFCS has since seen a considerable increase in the number of calls answered, Baron said. People reported about 3.5 million child abuse cases each year in the U.S., about 58,000 in the Bay Area and more than 1,800 verified cases in this county alone. In 2017, the county hotline logged some 30,000 calls—virtually of which were answered.

“They’re capturing and answering, I believe, over 98 percent of every call that comes in now,” he told San Jose Inside. “Sometimes people just hang up or they change their mind so that accounts for the 2 percent. But now there’s a human being answering the phone and they’re capturing those calls.”

Gilbert Murillo—who replaced the managers in charge of the child abuse reporting center during the time it was dropping half its calls—said the county had reduced wait times to 16 seconds under his tenure by last year.

For people who would rather not speak to anyone, there’s also an option to go straight to voicemail—a feature included for the newly launched hotline as well. And according to DFCS Director Francesca LeRúe, every single one of those voicemails gets returned.

The county’s newly announced hotline—833-SCC-KIDS (833.722.5437)—will field calls around the clock and will eventually replace the current system, which consists of multiple phone numbers.

“We have three different numbers in Santa Clara County, so it’s very confusing for people,” LeRúe said. “We just thought it was important to streamline the process, to have one number, and then decided it was important that it should be, in fact, toll free.”

Funding will remain unchanged with the new streamlined system, she said, and may eventually save money.

But those three existing hotline numbers will stay in place for another year to give the county time to inform people about the new one.

The first big push in promoting the hotline comes as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, LeRúe said. The county encourages the community to wear blue on Friday to call attention to the cause, and to attend the 36th annual Child Abuse Prevention Council Symposium on April 27 in Campbell.

“There’s still a lot of awareness that needs to come to the community to let people know some facts about what child abuse is, what child neglect is,” LeRúe said. “Everybody is Santa Clara County plays a big role in protecting children, it’s everybody’s responsibility.”

This article has been updated to note that Murillo was not in charge of the child abuse hotline during the time it was dropping half its calls. San Jose Inside regrets the error.

7 Comments

  1. > Santa Clara County Launches New Child Abuse Hotline

    The international human traffickers who are hauling unaccompanied children from Central America through Mexico and pushing them across the U.S. border are perpetrating child abuse.

    Does the Santa Clara County “New” Child Abuse Hotline know about this, or are the only interested in child abuse that occurs in Catholic schools?

  2. Another hotline for parents who are in a custody battle to make false reports. More shadows for our understaffed pd to chase after… When does it all end?

    • It is their job to chase ANYTHING THAT WOULD BE A DANGER TO A CHILD REGARDLESS…!Let the other parts of the system sort those types of shadows out for themselves.Most professionals know how to weed these kinds of false reports out..,and if one doesn’t,leave it to another who thoroughly fulfills their duties.Mistakes and false class will be corrected,and the real ones won’t be ignored..!

    • Just Idiots…it’s people of lesser intelligence such as yourself that use these dry,insensitive remarks/comments.Stupid comments like these are the ones that keep our systems highly stigmatized to the public,when they should be saying something if they see something…It is my prayer that you have children of your own you would do the same for another parent if you saw something dangerous happening to a child even if they were or weren’t the parents or not of that child..but then again if you DO have kids that you wouldn’t be as dumb to make a statement like this again..and if you DON’t have kids then i wouldn’t be surprised that you’d make a comment as inappropriate as this…you obviously haven’t got a CLUE about that it’s a FACT THAT NO MATTER WHAT it is in THE BEST INTEREST OF A CHILD TO MAKE A REPORT!!!smh!Stop watering down the comment section with jackass comments!

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