NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With school back in session and other fall activities now underway, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services’ (DCS) call centers are experiencing an increase in reports to their hotline.

“This is a trend that we see year over year. During the summer months, kids aren’t mingling in their community like they would on a regular basis,” said Alex Denis, executive director of communications and external affairs for DCS.

As students across Middle Tennessee make their return to class and other fall activities, officials every year prepare for an increase of calls to the DCS hotline. While a large portion of referrals come from educational staffers, such as counselors, teachers, and coaches, referrals are not limited to these individuals; anyone who a child confides in and expresses the need for help to can report.

“It’s the exposure that children have to safe adults who make those phone calls and make those web referrals,” said Denis. “Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter, so if you suspect abuse or neglect, you are mandated by law to make a referral to children’s services.”

The following are the latest numbers provided by DCS for the summer months of 2023, showing the increase in calls and reports submitted online from July to August:

  • May
    • Calls Presented: 9,350
    • Calls Handled: 8,838
    • Online Referrals: 6,058
  • June
    • Calls Presented: 8,410
    • Calls Handled:7,978
    • Online Referrals: 4,099
  • July
    • Calls Presented: 8,119
    • Calls Handled: 7,665
    • Online Referrals: 4,381
  • August
    • Calls Presented: 10,367
    • Calls Handled: 9,533
    • Online Referrals: 6,927

”When I see these numbers, I see them attached to a child. For me, I think how many of these children have been living in an unsafe situation where they need to have protection. So, if you suspect anything, just even suspect, call,” said Denis.

According to DCS staff, if you suspect any type of neglect or abuse against a child that you have contact with, you are asked and required by law to make that referral to the department’s hotline or the online web portal.

You can find the portal here.

On the department’s website, you can also find information on how to become a foster for a child. If it’s decided a child needs to be removed from an unsafe environment, then comes the need for more placement options, which includes foster families.

“Basically, it will walk you through what did you observe, what did the child tell you, do you see markings, has the child disclosed something to you…you fill that all out. You, as the referent, are kept confidential. Your information is never shared,” Denis said.

If you suspect abuse or neglect, you can call the DCS hotline number at 877-237-0004.