Child abuse reports drop, but that might not be a good thing

Child abuse reports have dropped since March when schools and businesses closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but that might not be a good thing, experts say. (MGN/file)
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(KWTX) When schools and nonessential businesses closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts predicted widespread self-isolation would lead to more cases of child abuse, but abuse hotline officials say reports have actually declined since stay at home orders have been in place.

That may not mean that fewer children are being abused, however.

Experts say it’s more likely the abuse is going unreported because children aren’t in class.

The executive director of The Children's Assessment Center in Houston, Kerry McCracken, says teachers are often the first to report abuse.

“When a child makes an outcry, it’s usually to a teacher and staff and with this isolation due to the pandemic (an abused child) doesn’t have the ability to ask for help,” McCracken said.

Studies by Child Protective Services show most children who are abused or neglected are young.

Children 3 and younger are the most vulnerable to abuse and neglect and more than half of child victims are no older than 6, the studies show.

Houston Crime Stoppers Safe School Manager Jenna Fondren says oftentimes it's not strangers children need to be worried about.

“If a child is abused or exploited in any way there is a relationship there. It’s easier to take advantage of someone you know than a complete stranger,” Fondren said.

It is the law in Texas to report child neglect or abuse.

By law suspected child abuse or neglect must be reported.

The hotline number is 1-800-252-5400.

Reports may also be submitted online.