Child abuse may be underreported

during COVID-19 Pandemic

Fulton McSwain and his staff work a job that many of us don’t want to think about — they spend their days asking children about the people who hurt them.

But since the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close and families to stay home, the Child Advocacy Center has gone rather quiet.

Across the country, child abuse reports have plummeted since the virus arrived. And the closures of schools and daycares have forced children closer to adults who may not be safe, McSwain said.

Teachers, who have a duty to report suspected abuse, are no longer able to catch early warning signs in a world without school. And the cases that do surface, sometimes involve injuries that require the emergency room or even the intensive care unit.

Experts say that domestic violence and abuse often skyrocket in times of stress and uncertainty. During the 2008 recession, hospitals saw noticeable increases in children admitted to the hospital for serious physical abuse.

Family Services is working hard to address the current workload of forensic interviews from children who have been physically or sexually abused, but McSwain and his team are also making preparations for a much bigger caseload as the pandemic restrictions loosen and economic recovery begins.