Missoula Co. Attorney’s Office adds staff to handle increase in Child Abuse cases
MISSOULA, Montana – The number of child abuse and neglect cases filed by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office has nearly tripled since 2011. In 2015 there were 178 new cases, up from 64 in 2011.
“We are swamped,” said Chief Deputy for the Missoula County Attorney’s Office Jason Marks. “The Child Abuse and Neglect Unit is working at maximum capacity.”
In February, the county attorney’s office added a secretary position to the Child Abuse and Neglect Unit to handle the influx of cases.
The added position required special approval from the county. The addition brings the total number of staff devoted to child abuse and neglect cases to three attorneys and two secretaries. The cost to taxpayers for the new secretary position is $36,000.
“The increases we are seeing are definitely tied to methamphetamine,” Marks said.
The Missoula County Attorney’s Office currently has 310 open child abuse and neglect cases.
Marks says because there is no indication that the numbers of child abuse cases will decrease, they will be asking the county for approval to add an additional attorney position later this year.
Marks estimates that, if approved, it would cost taxpayers $71,000.
In 2015, the Department of Public Health and Human Services completed 8,908 investigations related to child abuse involving 12,987 children. The DPHHS child abuse hotline received 35,812 calls in 2015, of which 2,422 were substantiated. That is an increase of more than 10,000 from 2010 and an increase of over 200 substantiated cases.
DPHHS Child and Family Services reports 3,019 Montana children are currently in foster care, a 100 percent increase from 2008 and the highest amount in the last 16 years.
There are 942 children in care because of meth-related reasons. In 2010 there were 230 meth-related placements.
Reasons relating to prescription drug abuse accounts for 247 children currently in foster care and overall drug placement is 1,650 children. That is just under double the 851 cases that the DPHHS handled in 2010.