It is such an understatement to say that these are truly unprecedented times, yet here we are as a society, dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s changed life for millions including one particular group - the innocent victims of child abuse.
Strange and somewhat deceiving trends are underway, as abuse reports have suddenly plummeted and although at first glance this might seem like a good thing, child welfare groups and child abuse lawyers are beginning to realize it could well indicate the opposite.
Self-isolation, stay-at-home orders, and school closures have created the perfect storm that may be endangering many children who now have no advocates.
Abuse Reports Way Down With COVID-19 Isolation Orders
Since the start of the stay-at-home orders that closed schools and day cares, confining children and adults at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, child abuse reports throughout the nation have plunged.
Welfare groups throughout the country are reporting record lows in reporting and as great as that may sound initially, it has them worried because the hotlines and tip lines are quieting down.
Right here in Texas, the state tipline for reporting incidents of suspected child abuse went from 11,179 calls a week in late February to only 9,344 in mid-March, according to TexProtects, a Texas child welfare group.1
That number is expected to continue to fall considerably as the weeks march on and we all remain in social isolation.
What’s Really Going On?
Child welfare groups and many child abuse attorneys who know these patterns fear that what’s really going on, despite the significant reduction in reports, is an artificial reduction in reports.
Abuse is just as prevalent as ever, possibly even more so based on the increase in children seen for suspected abuse at ERs lately; however, nobody is taking notice of it right now to report it.
TexProtects usually sees a slight reduction in tipline calls over school holidays and summer vacations primarily due to the fact that 25% or more abuse tips come from teachers and childcare providers.2
With closures continuing into a third month while more children are being treated in ERs, the idea that more not fewer children are at risk is very likely.
Children Confined with Abusive Parents
Because child abuse is a prevalent concern during even the best of times, it’s certainly not going to suddenly stop happening during the worst of them.
In all likelihood, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are generating additional strain on unhealthy family situations, further increasing the possibility of abuse to both children and spouses.
It’s a sobering situation with no good resolution right now, as kids are confined at home where any proof of abuse can be well-hidden.
Experts expect report numbers to skyrocket whenever children are allowed to return to school - but that is what seems like a long time away.
Compassionate Child Abuse Attorneys Can Help
Domestic and child abuse of any sort is a very serious issue if it’s happening within a family and an extremely upsetting one should an accusation be made.
While not every tip made to a helpline involves actual abuse, as many turn out to only be calls from concerned individuals who didn’t see all angles of a situation, these reports are critical to diagnosing abuse and providing the help necessary.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic with its associated closures and self-isolation, child abuse lawyers are available to help families deal with allegations of abuse or neglect and can help them find the family counseling needed to stop it.
Pray for these innocent abuse victims during this time of uncertainty.
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1329 College Avenue, Suite 100
Fort Worth TX 76104
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.
1The Texas Tribune, Coronavirus in Texas: Out of sight, child abuse in Texas thought to be on the rise, March 27, 2020
2TexProtects: Champions for Safe Children, Child Protection During COVID-19, March 25, 2020