Iowa is seeing an increase in both reported cases of child abuse and confirmed cases of abuse. Alli Moerman , spokeswoman for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, says an increase in the number of reports doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in cases.

“Iowa’s rates of child abuse are higher than the national average,” Moerman says. “We are actually seeing an increase in confirmed cases of child abuse in Iowa which rose, between the years 2015 and 2016, by about 8%. It’s a serious issue and we need to take action to prevent abuse from occurring.”

The laws defining child abuse vary from state to state, which may account for why Iowa’s numbers are higher than the national average. “What Iowa code says is abuse may be different compared to other states,” Moerman says. “We also think one of the main factors is that there are cultural differences around the country as far as communities that are more likely to report abuse and, frankly, communities that may be more aware of the signs of abuse and more likely to report things that are going on.”

The agency is sponsoring its annual Child Abuse Prevention and Family Support Conference in Des Moines next week. The event — scheduled for Monday through Wednesday — should draw about 600 people from across the state. “People that are focused in the fields of family support, social work, education, a lot of professionals who work with families and children,” Moerman says. “We really aim to bring collaboration across sectors that will ultimately help strengthen families and develop components that will lead to greater community change, all with the aim of prevention of child abuse.”

In 2015, Iowa had some 47,000 referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, more than 23,000 reports were referred for investigation. That same year, the Iowa Department of Human Services says there were nearly 8,300 children found to be abused statewide, while 12 Iowa children died from abuse or neglect. The Child Abuse Hotline is 800-362-2178.

(Thanks to Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)