In early 2020 as states rushed to halt the spread of coronavirus, nearly all schools closed and moved to online instruction. But it may have had some unintended consequences for children.
“We know that during the pandemic children were not as visible as they typically were and reports to our child abuse and neglect care line were down approximately 23%,” Ken Mysogland of the Department of Children and Families explained.
Mysogland said school personnel are responsible for 40% of all reports of abuse and neglect. The Department of Children and Families teamed up with the Department of Education to come up with a program to: “Educate teachers and school personnel on supports for families. How to assess abuse and neglect in a virtual environment,” Msyogland said.
He said now that schools have reopened they are seeing the total number of reports increase, but they are still down about 9% when compared to 2019.
“What did we find during the pandemic and what are we still finding now? Families are incredibly resilient. Communities are the best form of support for families,” Mysogland said.
Many of these families need housing, food or broadband internet service.
“What children and families need are those concrete and tangible supports.Verses surveillance by a government agency,” Mysogland said.
State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said chronic absenteeism from, school whether it’s in-person or remote, doesn’t mean all these children are being neglected.
“What it’s telling us is that some kids needs aren’t met by remote education. That parents are trying to make due at home,” Eagan said.
The state Department of Education reported a 3.1% drop in school enrollment. That’s nearly 18,000 fewer students in public and private school.
“Whenever a school district has a concern about the safety of a child they should call DCF, no question,” Eagan said.
However, more often than not, Eagan said it’s a family in need.
“The pandemic has added so many layers of needs for families,” Eagan said.
“The children we’re always the most concerned about from a child abuse and neglect perspective are actually our youngest children who are not school-age,” Eagan added.