Educators, who are some of the likeliest professionals to report child abuse, are encountering youth who have faced abuse in isolation throughout the pandemic. During 2020, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents aged 12-17 years increased 31% compared to 2019. Suspected suicide attempt ED visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12-17 (CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 6/18/21). These stats indicate an increase in child abuse as children were confined to the home during the pandemic.
We are taught as children that we can trust our parents, our teachers, our religious leaders, the police, the mayor, and the President of the United States. It is their duty to care for us, to mean us well, and to do only good. We can trust them; until we can’t.
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.