Helpline on child abuse to return

A statewide helpline for child abuse prevention is being revived.

Prevent Child Abuse Georgia aims to re-establish a 1-800 helpline by the end of the year, thanks to a foundation grant.

The helpline went out of service in 2011, when PCA Georgia itself was closed down for financial reasons. The helpline had handled more than 10,000 calls in the first four years of its operation, GHN reported in 2011. It provided Georgians concerned about the welfare of a child with access to information, support and links to community resources.

The Prevent Child Abuse organization reopened several months after closing, and is now housed at the Center for Healthy Development in Georgia State’s Institute of Public Health.

A $165,000 challenge grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation will put the helpline back in business, said Julia Neighbors, director of PCA Georgia.

The helpline “was an important and valuable resource,’’ Neighbors said Wednesday. “This was a gap we want to close.’’

PCA Georgia says the leading request the organization received from professionals working with children and families is to re-establish 1-800-CHILDREN

The Blank Foundation’s president, Penelope McPhee, said in a statement, “With the support of Georgia State University, PCA Georgia ensures that the community’s highest priority needs are met. The 1-800-CHILDREN helpline is a critical resource for children and families across the state.”

Child abuse and neglect can decrease victims’ levels of self-esteem, potential lifetime earnings, and positive social functioning while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, mental health diagnosis, criminal behavior and physical injuries.

In 2011, Georgia had 21,205 substantiated cases of abuse or neglect, and 76 children died.

A 1-800 information line would be helpful for people to know the signs of child abuse and how to report possible cases, said Dr. Lee Heery, a pediatrician in the St. Simons/Brunswick area. She chairs the committee on child abuse and neglect for the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ultimately, a physician suspecting abuse or neglect should call local law enforcement or local office of the Division of Family and Children’s Services, she noted.

Educating communities about child abuse is important. “In certain places, there’s more awareness of it, and more cases are reported,’’ said Heery.