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Experts say child abuse numbers are likely to be higher during coronavirus outbreak

Kristine Sorensen
April24/ 2020

This pandemic can be an especially difficult time for families who are juggling kids home from school while also working from home or even worse, home because they lost their job.

The child abuse numbers are deceiving. They’re down right now, but experts say the real number is very likely higher than normal. It’s just that kids are hidden in their homes.

There were 5,102 substantiated cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania in 2018, and 47 children lost their lives because of abuse or neglect, but since the stay-at-home order, child abuse reports have gone down because most people who report child abuse are what’s called mandated reporters.

“They’re our teachers, our guidance counselors, our school nurses, our bus drivers, as well as our medical personnel, folks who are volunteers and Big Brothers Big Sisters, athletic coaches,” says Angela Liddle, CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.

Once kids are back to school and activities, she says, “We expect at that point in time to see a consistent and pretty stark increase in child abuse reports.”

She says families are under unique stresses.

“The reality is that very few parents, regardless of socioeconomic class, are accustomed to being around children 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she says.

“It is a hard hard job. It is stressful, and you put on top of that perhaps food insecurity. Look at the thousands of cars we see in line for food distribution. You put on top of that unemployment, where folks are struggling to pay utilities and perhaps the rent, and it’s really almost literally the perfect storm.”

Liddle says if parents and caregivers need help right now, there are online support groups.

“For family members or neighbors who really believe the line has been crossed and children are not safe, I think it’s important for the viewing and listening audience to hear that the child welfare system is very much operational at this point in time.”

The number to call “Childline” to report any possible abuse is 800-932-0313.

Angela says, while it’s hard to help while we are social distancing, you should still check in regularly on friends and family by phone or FaceTime or Zoom to see how they are doing.

And for people who may be struggling financially, you can drop off food.

Kristine Sorensen

I am proud to work at KDKA-TV -- anchoring the news, hosting Pittsburgh Today Live and doing special reports. I am married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin and we have 3 children. I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 but I’ve lived in Dallas, Johnson City, Tenn., Chicago, Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee and Winter Park, Fla. Pittsburgh is now the place I call home.

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