Child welfare officials are worried that many cases of child abuse will go unreported during the pandemic, since children are no longer in school or activities.
The majority of ChildLine reports come from mandated reporters in the school systems and daycare workers, according to Matthew Salvatori, Assistant Director of Lycoming County Children and Youth. Other people who are mandated reporters include volunteer coaches in sports, doctors, and dentists.
The medical field comprises a bulk of the child abuse reports, but now “kids are not having routine care,” said Angela Liddle, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, an organization that runs training programs to help educate families and prevent child abuse.
“My concern is over reports being down an immense amount. What we are getting now in a week we usually get in a day,” Salvatori said. Lycoming County Children and Youth is still open and ChildLine is open as well, he said. “We’re fully functional right now.”
In 2018, Pennsylvania had 44,063 reports of child abuse. Mandated reporters made up 39,040 of the reports. The majority of those mandated reporters, approximately 13,640, were employed in the school systems, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Health care workers comprised 8,584 of these reports and employees or volunteers for a children’s activity service made up 1,289 of the reports.
Children and Youth workers are still responding to calls to go into homes. Most types of child abuse reports, including sexual and physical abuse, have a 24-hour timeline for child welfare workers to respond. The Children and Youth workers are responding to such calls by going into homes with personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, Salvatori said.
Liddle acknowledged that Children and Youth agencies are still out there doing investigations because it is a vital service. “These people may have incredibly, incredibly stressful jobs,” Liddle said. “My concern is that come September when things may return to normal, they will be overloaded.” Salvatori also mentioned that they expect to see an increase in reports when kids are back into school and daycares.
Liddle suggested that parents and other people who are mandated reporters, such as teachers, continue to take training during this time. The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance has child welfare experts that run online mandated reporter trainings, she said. The training information is available on the website at https://www.pa-fsa.org/.
“Now’s the time to be a good neighbor. If you know a family in close proximity who’s having a tough time, maybe a single mom, check in on them.” She suggested have playdates using online resources such as Zoom.
“We have to make sure to look out for each other during this time,” Liddle said.