Child Abuse, Neglect Cases Flying Under the Radar During Pandemic

When schools shifted to distance learning during the pandemic, reports of child abuse and neglect by K-12 campus personnel dropped by 59%.

Child Abuse, Neglect Cases Flying Under the Radar During Pandemic

The Associated Press has found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of child abuse and investigations of claims of child abuse have dropped at a staggering rate, indicating the coronavirus has stripped away the safety net for many children.

More than 400,000 fewer reports of child welfare concerns were filed during the pandemic, and 200,000 fewer child abuse and neglect investigations and assessments were conducted compared to 2019, AP’s analysis found. Overall, that’s a drop of about 18% in reports and investigations.

Fewer reports mean there is greater potential for harm.

“Children who are experiencing abuse or neglect at home are only coming to the attention of CPS much further down the road than they normally would,” Amy Harfeld, an expert in child abuse deaths with the Children’s Advocacy Institute told AP.

School teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, nurses and other employees are the top reporters for child abuse. They are trained to identify abuse and neglect and are mandated reporters.

AP found that during the pandemic when schools shifted to distance learning, reports of child abuse and neglect by K-12 campus personnel dropped by 59%.

Dianna Smoot, who is the director of community education at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, explained to Campus Safety how school staff members can report child abuse:

Call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD or your state’s hotline to make a report of suspected abuse. Many states allow for online reporting as well. Reports made through hotlines and websites may take up to 24 hours to process; if you feel the child is in immediate danger (i.e. the offender lives in the child’s household or will have access to the child that day), contact your local law enforcement agency.

Information that is helpful to have when making a report (if known):

  • Name, age and address of the child
  • Brief description of the situation
  • Names of parents and any siblings in the home

Your report of child abuse or neglect is confidential and immune from civil and criminal liability as long as it is made in good faith. While every effort will be taken to maintain your confidentiality, in some circumstances, consistent with the law, your identity may be revealed. Your desire to remain anonymous does not release you from your legal obligation to report

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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