With the onset of the corona virus pandemic and the issuance of “stay at home” orders closing schools and businesses in many local communities, child abuse reports have plummeted across the country. The agencies, which provide support for families and children as abuse cases move through the justice system, reported serving 40,000 fewer children nationwide between January and June of this year than the same period last year, from 192,367 children in 2019 down to 152,016 this year, a 21% drop, according to the National Children’s Alliance, an accrediting body for a network of 900 children’s advocacy centers. Reports of abuse have declined dramatically, they say, not because it isn’t happening, but because with everyone “sheltering in place”, teachers, doctors and others have fewer ways of catching it.
“We have absolutely no reason to believe the actual incidence rate has declined,” said Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance. “What we really believe is that there are 40,000 fewer kids that haven’t been saved from abuse."
Year after year, more than two-thirds of child abuse cases are reported by teachers and other community professionals, and no group reports more than educators, who were responsible for 21% of the 4.3 million referrals made to child protective services in 2018, according to federal data. With schools, day-care centers and summer camps closed — and fewer kids showing up for doctor’s visits — vulnerable children have fewer contacts with adults who are most likely to spot signs of abuse or neglect.
The cases that are surfacing often involve children so severely injured they end up in the emergency room and intensive care unit, as The Washington Post reported in April. Leigh Vinocur, a spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, said doctors nationwide reported treating more serious injuries in a week than they were used to seeing in a month.
The Truth About Child Abuse
- Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children).
- The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. In 2014, state agencies identified an estimated 1,580 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect. However, studies also indicate significant under counting of child maltreatment fatalities by some state agencies by 50% or more.
- More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger. More than 80% were not yet old enough for kindergarten.
- Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involved at least one parent as perpetrator.
- Estimates of lost worker productivity, health care costs, special education costs, child welfare expenditures and criminal justice expenditures add up to $124 billion.
Head in the Sand/Under the Rug
Case workers in child and family services we deal with everyday tell us that the systemic difficulty they face is that child abuse is so ugly in a civilized nation that no one wants to talk about it. In other words, most people prefer to remain in “denial” when it comes to facing the horror of child abuse.
Case workers want this social ill to be part of our civil conversation so that many more people will get on board and help support these children at risk. That’s why we have sent you this blog. The children need your help.