Watching for signs of child abuse and neglect, but from a distance

Reports of child abuse and neglect have declined significantly since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s not an indicator of fewer incidents, child and family services professionals say. Rather, it’s a sign that abuse and neglect could be flying under the radar in distanced schooling environments.

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When hybrid learning began in some schools in the fall, the number of calls to hotlines to report child abuse and neglect increased slightly. But professionals are concerned those numbers will dip again during a COVID-19 surge that has forced many schools to return to virtual learning.

So now, child and family services agencies hope to educate anyone who works with children and members of the community about how to prevent abuse and neglect — and how to spot the red flags even given the current unusual circumstances.

“Our worry overall is that families who might need us or might need our interventions aren’t necessarily coming to our attention because not many of them are being seen by school professionals, let’s just say,” said Nancy Carre-Lee, deputy director of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.


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