Calls to child abuse hotlines across Florida have fallen, with about 10% fewer calls in March. That’s possibly because schools have been shuttered since mid-March in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
School closures mean teachers, bus drivers, guidance counselors and custodians aren’t spotting suspected abuse cases, which they are required by law to report.
Florida campuses have been closed since March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and instruction is now being conducted virtually.
State Department of Children and Families data shows that in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, calls have dropped by 20% last month, reflecting the statewide trend, according to Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The number of calls reporting possible abuse or neglect to the department’s child abuse hotline in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties were down by a fifth, from an average of 1,037 calls each March since 2015 to 835 this year, according to data provided to the paper.
The local trend reflects what is happening statewide, the department’s data shows. Across Florida, the number of reports declined 11% in March from the five-year average.
Child welfare workers anticipate an even greater decline for April.
The teachers and child welfare workers who haven’t seen their students in weeks worry that it’s a perfect recipe for abuse.
Teachers, doctors and child care workers have been trained to spot early signs of abuse or neglect.
Both Sarasota and Manatee school districts have mobilized staff to check in on the nearly 100,000 public school students in the two counties, according to school officials in both counties.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.