Child advocates and educators have warned since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that it would be difficult to keep an eye on at-risk children with them no longer reporting to school every day of the week. Not long after those warnings were issued, the overall reports of child abuse plummeted. However, the numbers didn’t drop because children were no longer being abused. The numbers dropped because teachers and doctors no longer had access to children to recognize the abuse and then report it.
40,000 fewer children received the care they need
The National Children’s Alliance has reported treating 40,000 fewer children from January to June of 2020 compared to the same period last year. The drop accounted for a 21 percent decrease. These numbers are nationwide and come from 900 different centers operated by the Alliance.
“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. What we were dreading did in fact happen.”
The centers receive referrals from law enforcement agencies and child protective services. These referrals do not account for all instances of child abuse, as many counties throughout the country do not have access to an advocacy center.
Federal data shows that 21 percent of over four million referrals made in 2018 came from educators, by far the largest group to report child abuse in the country. Since daycare centers, schools, and summer camps have been closed, at-risk children are having fewer interactions with adults who know how to spot the signs of abuse. Even worse, fewer children are going to the doctor during the pandemic, which would be another way to spot and report abuse.
How to seek help if you suspect child abuse
The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, including families that have been split up because one parent is an essential worker. Many doctors, nurses, and first responders who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic have opted to live away from their families in order to keep their spouses and children safe. However, what if you suspect your child is being abused by your spouse or former partner?
If you suspect your child is being abused, call the local authorities. Call the police and ask for a welfare check. Call child protective services and inform them of your situation and suspicions. Call any other local agency that helps abused children and ask them to visit your children on your behalf.
If you have an older child, ask them to report any abuse that they or their younger siblings may encounter. Try to encourage the older child to get help as soon as possible or to call a loved one who can come get them.
Apply for a restraining order
You are within your rights in South Carolina to apply for a restraining order on behalf of your child if they are being abused. Restraining orders can be issued if the abuser is the parent or spouse of the person applying (the petitioner). The petition must be filed in either York, Chester, or Lancaster Counties with the family courts.
If you suspect your child is being abused by their other parent or caregiver, schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney in York, Lancaster, or Chester County, by contacting Holland Law, LLC. Call our office today at 803-219-2630, or complete a contact form to schedule a consultation. We operate offices in Fort Mill and Rock Hill.
Tom Holland previously served as the General Counsel for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the City Solicitor for the City of Lancaster, and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. He is a single father, and through his own divorce gained valuable insight he now uses to represent Fort Mill and Rock Hill, SC families with the best representation. Learn more about Tom Holland.