Proos: New toll-free number makes reporting child, senior abuse easier

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Human Services today launched a new 24-hour, toll-free phone number designed to make reporting child or senior abuse or neglect as quick and easy as possible, said Sen. John Proos.

“This new uniform, statewide system is an effort to increase the protection of vulnerable adults and children by improving the ease of reporting and the consistency of responses,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I encourage all Southwest Michigan families to record this number and use it if you suspect abuse or neglect of a child or elder. Your phone call could make a huge difference in the life of a survivor.”

The statewide toll-free number is 1-855-444-3911. Central Intake is available to everyone, including the general public and mandatory reporters (those required by law to report abuse) like teachers, physicians and law enforcement. The number is answered quickly, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week (including holidays) by trained professionals at the new call center in Kent County, where a successful six-county pilot program has been running since September 2011.

“This is an excellent example of government embracing a new solution that makes the service simpler while also increasing the quality of service provided,” Proos said. “Most importantly, this one call system will result in additional safeguarding of Michigan’s children and seniors.”

Complaints involving child abuse or neglect will receive an immediate decision on investigation, no matter the time of day or night, before being directly referred to county Child Protective Services staff. Complaints involving abuse or neglect of adults will be fully documented by intake staff and referred to counties for an investigation decision.

“Childhood is supposed to be a time of innocence, but many of our kids have this innocence taken from them,” Proos said. “One in four girls and one of every seven boys are sexually abused by age 18. I am working on legislation called ‘Erin’s Law’ that will help raise awareness of child sexual abuse. It is important to make reporting easier, but we must also educate and encourage our children to speak up.”

Proos’ bill would be named after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois, whose advocacy in her home state led to the passage of a similar law there in 2011.  After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to try to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.