COVID-19 likely cutting off important sources of information about child abuse

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Across the nation in places like New York, Louisiana and Ohio we’ve seen a a dramatic drop in the number of reported cases of child abuse since the onset of COVID1-19. Washington State is no exception to this. Data released last month shows an over 30 percent decline in reports of child abuse in recent months. 

Does this mean there was actually fewer instance of abuse? Sadly, probably not. Rather, because children are not attending school and other child-centered facilities, many instances may be going unreported. Children who are mostly staying at home aren’t in regular contact with teachers, doctors, childcare workers, coaches and others who are either required or likely to report suspected abuse/neglect. And video conference tools like Zoom or FaceTime aren’t set up to give the type of regular, personal context needed for crucial decisions about whether a child is safe.

Here’s more detail about the data in Washington.

Child Abuse Reports – 5,000 Fewer Reports Investigated in March through June

Every quarter the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council forecasts caseloads for the State of Washington covering many areas of services the state government provides. The Council’s forecasts are used by both the Governor and state legislature in their respective budget proposals.

One of the caseloads the Council forecasts is the number of child abuse reports screened-in for investigation. “Screened-in” means the case is accepted for investigation or assessment after a report of possible abuse or neglect of a child. The June caseload forecast called for a historic low in investigations (12,290 from March through June), down by almost 5,000 from the February forecast for the same time frame. 

Here’s the chart from the report (at page 36 of the full report)

As schools and the economy begin to re-open, we should expect to see a reversal in this tragic trend.

You can find information about how to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child in Washington State at this link.