Calls To Report Child Abuse Dropped Significantly Since Pa. Coronavirus Shutdown Began
Calls made to report suspected child abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine continued to be significantly lower than usual in May, the state Department of Human Services said Thursday. They said the drastic decrease in calls over the past two months resulted from closed schools amid the COVID-19 shutdown.
Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said ChildLine, the state’s hotline for reports of suspected child abuse, received more than 14,000 calls in May, which was 40% lower than last year. In April, the decline was 50%.
“This was not a data trend that we were happy to see,” Miller said. “Fewer child abuse reports cannot be interpreted to indicate fewer instances of child abuse.”
The drop began when Pennsylvania closed K-12 schools in response to the coronavirus. Miller said school employees usually play a big role in reporting abuse. Of the 39,040 reports made by mandated reporters to ChildLine in 2018, more than a third were from school employees, according to the department.
Jon Rubin, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth, and Families, said it’s also been more difficult to investigate reports because of social distancing, but the department and its staff have been using alternatives like video calls.
“For the reports that were new, that we’re unable to assess without going to the home, or situations where we knew a family and felt like a home visit was appropriate, those efforts continued,” Rubin said.
Rubin said the department has worked closely with county offices in spreading its message of potential underreporting or unreported abuse. He said the department will also reach out to schools and camps that are open this summer to raise awareness.
If you suspect something is wrong, you can call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 and make an anonymous report.