References to baby abuse are growing in northwest Georgia after reducing in 2020

After a decrease in reports of child abuse in 2020 during the pandemic, the Children’s Advocacy Center in northwest Georgia saw an influx of children suspected of being victims of abuse in the first half of 2021.

Many vendors in the area had predicted reports would decline during the pandemic as students had less access to teachers and other hired reporters who are key to spotting signs of child abuse.

“These kids just didn’t have an opportunity to have this opportunity to share this,” said Anthony Dye, director of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Children’s Advocacy Center. “We thought we would get into the pandemic in March, we knew things would go wrong. And when they returned to school, we thought I hate to say it, but the floodgates would open. “

Although Dye said the 2020 case numbers weren’t as large as expected when schools reopened in the fall, referrals have now started in 2021.

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit legal center, which includes Walker, Catoosa, Dade, and Chattooga counties, conducted 175 forensic interviews in 2021, compared to 107 in 2020 and 154 in 2019 over the same period. According to Dye, 350 should be carried out by the end of the year, the highest number ever.

(READ MORE: Abuse Amid Pandemic: Chattanooga Area Numbers Show Staggering Picture)

Like others around the country, the center works with local law enforcement agencies and other organizations to optimize specialized care for young victims. Forensic interviews allow children to sit down with trained interviewers and tell their stories while a police officer and a Department of Family and Children Services employee watch from another room. The session is also recorded for law enforcement purposes, which helps reduce the need for young victims to report about their abuse.

Report abuse

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Georgia’s Child Abuse Hotline at 1-855-GA-CHILD or 1-855-422-4453. Call the Tennessee child abuse hotline at 877-237-0004 or online at Reports can be anonymous.

If a child is in imminent danger, call 911.

Source: Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Children’s Advocacy Center


Visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber ​​Tip Line at to file a report or call 1-800-THE-LOST. If the child is in imminent danger, call 911.

Do not delete pictures or messages as law enforcement will need to collect them as evidence. Stop communicating with the person.

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The locations also offer medical examinations, follow-up care and therapy beyond the initial discussions. The Northwest Georgia center now has a waiting list of about 20 children.

While the numbers have increased in northwest Georgia, executive director Kristen McCallie of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Hamilton County said the Chattanooga area is on average a year on average in the number of forensic interviews, although the office is in more serious cases last year than usual.

In 2019, 638 forensic interviews were conducted at the Hamilton County Center. That number dropped to 576 in 2020, but so far 299 have happened in the first half of 2021, closer to a “normal” year.

In an earlier interview with the Times Free Press, McCallie said the center is also preparing for delayed abuse disclosure from last year, which Dye says is not uncommon even under normal circumstances.

“Whether or not there is a pandemic, you will always have these delayed revelations,” Dye said. “The average age of someone who exposes child abuse would shock you. It’s over 50 years old.”

Although it would be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of the spike in 2021, Dye wrote in an email that Georgia’s passage of Erins’ Act in 2018 helped educate students on physical safety and security Reinforce abuse reporting, which may have made the student more comfortable with disclosure. McCallie also said the Hamilton County Center has been working on preventive education, with more than 4,000 children and adults participating in its prevention programs last year.

Dye said while the influx of reports in northwest Georgia created a drain on resources and a need for another advisor at the center, which is primarily funded by grants and donations, its staff have worked hard to provide quality services during the pandemic .

“I have wonderful employees here who do a great job. We take care of each other, ”he said. “One way we have survived the pandemic and survived these difficult cases is if we all practice self-care.”

“We want people to know that we are there for the children,” he said. “And we are ready to help and we can.”

Contact Tierra Hayes at

Forensic interviews at the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Children’s Advocacy Center

Annual total:

2017: 237

2018: 284

2019: 308

2020: 260

2021 Expected: 350

January-July sums

2017: 126

2018: 143

2019: 154

2020: 107

2021: 175

Source: Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Children’s Advocacy