April has been designated as the National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983. However, the Coronavirus has raised new concerns about child abuse. Schools have been closed since mid-March. Many parents have been laid off or are working from home.
Many states, including South Carolina, have reported drastic decreases in child abuse reports since mid-March. This isn’t because child abuse has declined. Teachers, day-care workers, and health care providers are mandatory reporters of abuse. Because schools are closed, teachers and others who normally see and report abuse can no longer do so. Also, many doctors are doing visits through video conferencing, reducing their ability to interact with children and discover abuse or neglect. Clergy are also mandatory reporters and children are not going to church right now.
The lack of reporting is concerning because it is likely that child abuse may have increased during this time. Parents are stressed having to be locked down in a house with their children without a break, and parents are also teaching their kids while facing other stressors like job loss and financial instability. The added stress for parents is more likely to lead to reactions toward children that may be abusive.
During this current crisis, it is now very important to report suspected child abuse or neglect. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you should contact local law enforcement and request a welfare check on the child. Law enforcement officers are mandated reporters who can investigate your suspicions and contact the S.C. Department of Social Services if warranted. All reports of suspected abuse or neglect must be made in good faith. You may also report anonymously to the S.C. Department of Social Services by visiting https://benefitsportal.dss.sc.gov/#/ran/home. Finally, reports can also be made by calling the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.