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Child Abuse Hotline Calls Are Going Unanswered, Auditor General Charges

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tens of thousands of phone calls into the state's child abuse hotline called ChildLine went unanswered last year, says state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

"There's a significantly high chance that some of those calls were of critical nature," DePasquale declared on Tuesday.

Acknowledging that changes in state law after the Jerry Sandusky scandal increased call volumes, the auditor general said the state has failed to fund and staff the hotline adequately.

"What our team found in its initial work was so disturbing that it led me to issue this interim report," DePasquale said.

In 2014, there were 6,780 calls that were not answered by this hotline.

In 2015, though, it skyrocketed to 42,000. That's nearly one out of five calls that were not answered at all.

And here's another problem.

Of the calls that did come in and were answered, nearly a third of them were not tracked, meaning we have no idea at all what these calls were about.

ChildLine is operated by the Department of Human Services, and the governor's office issued this response:

"When Gov. Wolf took office, his administration inherited a ChildLine program that was not being implemented properly, and was an absolute mess. While many strides have been made, there is more work to do."

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DePasquale said more staff to operate, track, and monitor a 24-7 hotline is needed.

"During the course of the audit, as more staff were added to the hotline that did lead to a reduction of the issues. Having said that, a lot more work is needed," he said.

That, of course, requires more funding from the legislature.

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