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Child abuse cases could be falling under the radar during pandemic

Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. (WJAR)
Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. (WJAR)
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The coronavirus pandemic could be fueling an entirely new issue, child abuse cases falling under the radar.

NBC 10 News found out DCYF received 1,447 calls about child abuse or neglect last month, a 23 percent drop compared to this time last year.

Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant said that could point to a much larger problem.

"The concern is what could be happening that isn't being reported," said Burke Bryant.

Burke Bryant said it's an issue being seen across the country.

Child advocates are concerned that fewer adults are seeing children, which means it's likely that fewer cases are being reported.

"It is more worrisome right now because there are fewer people who are in the everyday lives of children to make sure children are okay," she said.

Burke Bryant said many abuse reports come from someone the child already knows, like a teacher, administrator or coach.

They're also anticipating a possible surge in calls once school is back in session.

"It would not be unexpected for the calls to start going back up," said Burke Bryant.

The COVID-19 crisis is also causing stressors for parents and caregivers, like unemployment and isolation.

Stressors that Burke Bryant worries may cause an increase in parents mistreating kids.

"This is a unique set of circumstances and that's why I know that there are so many people who are working closely with DCYF that are really aware of this, and citizens need to be aware of it, too," she said.

That means taking preventative steps by checking in on your neighbors, and most importantly if you see something say something.

"Everyone has a role in terms of if you see something that you suspect is child abuse or neglect, you have a duty to call the hotline," Burke Bryant said.

To report abuse or neglect, call 1-800-RI-CHILD.

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