Eau Claire (WQOW)- The Wisconsin Counties Association reports statewide, cases of child abuse and neglect have jumped by 30 percent since 2007. That trend is reflected in Eau Claire County.
While there has been an increase locally, staff with the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services said the real change they are seeing is the type of cases.
Staff said 80 percent of the cases, in which Child Protective Services intervene, are attributed to drug use. Around five years ago, that number hovered around 50 percent. The department said many of these cases are defined as child neglect, which is typically associated with drug use, which staff said can be extremely complex and can pose many more challenges when trying to resolve the situation.
"We talk about what we're seeing today...we're seeing something different. It is not the neglect, just of basic needs which is certainly incredibly concerning, but we're seeing neglect at a level of, parents or responsible adults not being able to function as a result of substance abuse, and contributing to the harm of the development by their behaviors of children," said Eau Claire Department of Human Services Director Diane Cable.
The department intervened in 438 screened in reports in 2016, compared to 391 the year before. There were 234 reports of neglect in 2016, up from 198 in 2015. Staff said the increased case load is stretching the department's resources thin.
Governor Walker has proposed a $5 million increase in 2018-2019's budget devoted to child services, and while the department said it would help, it's just the tip of the iceberg. They said the state is also seeing a shortage of people entering the field, requiring recruitment efforts at universities.
Human services staff said one thing the community can do to help is to know and support their neighbors and to reach out to those who need a helping hand because a small act of kindness can go a long way for those who are struggling.