RIVERSIDE COUNTY — With children out of school and families isolated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s advocates are asking neighbors and friends to be extra watchful and to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
The calls for vigilance come during Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time each April when communities recommit efforts and resources aimed at protecting children and strengthening families. Many mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect, such as daycare workers and teachers, are no longer seeing children in person.
“We must come together in this crisis to strengthen our social safety net for vulnerable children and families,” said Sayori Baldwin, director of Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). “Families are experiencing financial and social hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and we know that children are at higher risk for abuse and neglect right now.”
Baldwin and leaders with DPSS’ Children’s Services Division are asking neighbors to check on each other through social media or by phone.
“We’re encouraging these measures as this is unprecedented time for many children and families,” said Charity Douglas, interim assistant director with the Children’s Services Division. Individuals who suspect child abuse or neglect can notify the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-442-4918. The hotline received approximately 61,000 calls with concerns of maltreatment for over 40,000 children in 2019. The line averages 5,000 calls per month. Since the first week of March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and schools were closed, reports of abuse or neglect have declined by 56 percent.
“We are here to help children and families get through this crisis,” Douglas said. “Our child abuse hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you see something, call us.”
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