It’s been a busy month for officials and experts fighting against child sexual abuse.

Latest Child Abuse Updates From Around The Country

Confirmed reports of child abuse have skyrocketed in Iowa, outstripping the already-meager resources of the State’s Department of Human Services.

Young Girl Crying

In Ohio, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are working to identify and follow-up on sentinel injuries. And, in Oklahoma, a former elementary school principal has been arrested for child abuse; those who know him the best say they are shocked and saddened by the allegations.

Here are three breaking news stories from the world of child abuse prevention.

Iowa Sees Increase In Confirmed Child Abuse Reports

“We’ve just never had an increase like this,” says Stephen Scott, former director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. Over the last year, confirmed child abuse reports in the Midwestern State have increased by an astounding 26%, the Des Moines Register reports. That’s the largest jump in more than 20 years.

It’s probably not, however, that child abuse is becoming any more common in Iowa. Families and victims, experts say, are stepping forward at an increased rate due to growing public awareness of the issue, spurred in no small part by two high-profile cases of fatal child neglect in the last year-and-a-half.

Horrific Neglect Deaths Spur Awareness

In 2017, 16-year-old Sabrina Ray died of malnourishment in a foster home. A year earlier, Natalie Finn, also 16, starved to death under her mother’s “care,” despite multiple reports of concern about her health submitted to Iowa’s Department of Human Services.

While increased awareness is certainly a good thing, many experts are worried that the State’s DHS won’t be able to keep up with the increase in confirmed abuse reports. In March 2018, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a legislative package that included $4.3 million in cuts to the Department of Human Services’ budget.

Ohio Hospitals Find Success Identifying Child Abuse Victims

Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Attorney General, is pushing to expand a program designed to catch child abuse cases in their earliest stages. The collaboration between DeWine’s Office and the Ohio Hospital Association, known as the Timely Recognition of Abusive Injuries Collaborative, helps doctors and other medical professionals identify so-called “sentinel injuries” – less-severe injuries that serve as a warning that abuse could be occurring in the home.

Four-Fold Improvement In Sentinel Injury Recognition

There’s already good indication that the initiative is working. Interviewed for WOSU, Ohio’s public radio station, Dr. Jonathon Thackeray, a representative of Dayton Children’s Hospital, said that his own facility’s recognition of sentinel injuries has increased dramatically.

“Before we started this work,” Dr. Thackeray said, “we recognized that 1.5 percent of children with a sentinel injury came back within a year with a second injury. Today we can tell you we’ve quadrupled that identification rate. We’re now recognizing that over 6 percent of infants with sentinel injury are returning with a second injury.”

Doctors Roll Out Ohio Child Abuse Identification Protocol

Dr. Thackeray is quick to note that child abuse isn’t becoming more common in Ohio; it’s just that doctors and nurses are getting better at identifying the early warning signs. Statewide, the recognition of sentinel child abuse injuries has jumped by 50%, Thackeray continued, from 60 identified injuries per month to 90.

As part of the Timely Recognition of Abusive Injuries Collaborative, Ohio hospitals have introduced a protocol for examining potential child abuse victims and reporting guidelines. Those procedures are now being rolled out to eight pediatric facilities in the State.

Former Elementary Principal Charged For Child Abuse

The former principal of an Oklahoma elementary school has been charged with child abuse. In court documents filed on June 5, 2018, state prosecutors say Douglas Parker, who currently serves as the pastor for Dale Baptist Church, mistreated a 6-year-old girl by “forcefully grabbing and pulling her, wrapping his hands around her neck and chin and forcefully moving her head, and / or forcefully pushing her nose and face into the wall causing injury.”

Harold Jones is “totally shocked and surprised,” KFOR reports. In an interview, the former principal for Dale Public Schools and a good friend of Parker said he was astonished by the allegations, describing Parker as a “gentle man.” Parker no longer serves as the principal for Virginia Smith Elementary in Harrah, Oklahoma; the Harrah School Board refused to comment on the recent charges against him.