- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri law that protects children from abuse by other children has spurred hundreds of hotline calls since it was enacted in August.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1X77YTJ ) reports that the law mandates the Children’s Division to perform family assessments when it receives child abuse hotline calls alleging inappropriate sexual behavior perpetrated by children on other children.

Beforehand, the state was only mandated to investigate allegations of child abuse involving people caring for the child. This ruled out state intervention in most complaints against minors.

Statistics provided by the agency show the state has received about 325 calls per month, more than six times the number officials anticipated.

A spokesman with the Missouri Department of Social Services said a state caseworker has responded to every hotline call deemed a concern despite the high number of calls. Officials said experienced caseworkers were taken from other assignments to meet the demand.

Becky Wekenborg presented the issue to state lawmakers last year when she alleged her daughter, 4 at the time, was abused by a 7-year-old during overnight visits with her father in a court-mandated joint custody decision. The judge didn’t change the custody agreement and dismissed the allegation as child’s play, although the child’s pediatrician repeatedly testified that she had been sexually abused.

“Unless you get a sympathetic family court judge that knows these things and understands there is a difference between sexual abuse, and that these kids are perpetrating and not playing doctor, you aren’t really getting anywhere in the court system,” Wekenborg said.

Child advocates such as Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of the nonprofit Missouri Kids First, said the new law is a good way for early intervention with children who exhibit problem sexual behaviors while also protecting other children from abuse.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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