The Department of Child Safety said calls into their hotline are increasing as vital community services get reduced because of budget cuts. They also say 70 percent of the calls into their hotline are for neglect allegations.
A researcher at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy is shedding light on the complexity of neglect and possible prevention.
"Some of the accounts were not pleasant to read through," said ASU researcher Erica Quintana. Her work recently took her to all reaches of the state to better understand neglect across Arizona.
"Even if it doesn't end in physical abuse the way people think of it, it has some of the same negative impacts on child development," Quintana said. She's found that neglect encompasses a huge spectrum. It includes leaving young kids home alone, or not taking them to get a cavity filled.
"It may mean leaving drug paraphernalia or a gun on the coffee table within the reach of a kid," Quintana said.
Her study shows many families are dealing with multiple issues at the same time.
"They may be experiencing neglect and have issues with domestic violence and have issues with substance abuse," Quintana said.
"I think Erica's report really does outline the complexities of neglect," said Susan Smith, a prevention administrator with DCS.
"Once it becomes and rises to the level of a Department of Child Safety report, that's when it has exacerbated this level of, 'Oh my gosh, why were the children left in the car on a hot day?'" Smith said.
She added that many of these issues start small, before they become chronic.
Quintana found many in the community want to see more training for mandatory reporters, like teachers and police officers, on what neglect looks like and when to call DCS.
The next chapter of her research will be looking across our state and identifying whether there are any gaps of service in high-need areas.
Quintana said it's up to all of us to prevent child neglect.
"Getting to know your neighbors and supporting that single mom down the street if she needs some childcare," Quintana said. "It is our community and these kids will grow up to be members of our society."
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