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More severe cases of child abuse emerge during the pandemic

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:53 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Much like domestic violence, concerns circulated about a spike in child abuse during the pandemic.

In the early months of the pandemic, calls to Arizona’s Child Abuse Hotline dropped but there is a difference between calls and investigations.

Months later, the impacts of the pandemic on child abuse are becoming clear in southern Arizona.

“There weren’t many kids coming here to the Children’s Advocacy Center because there weren’t very many investigations of child abuse, and it wasn’t because the abuse wasn’t happening, we hadn’t miraculously found a cure, it was because no one could see it,” said Marie Fordney, executive director of Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center.

Due to lockdowns and remote learning, less eyes were on children, which likely led to less reports of child abuse.

People often think of physical abuse but child abuse comes in many forms including neglect, which is the most common type currently in Arizona.

“I will never forget the third week in May was when we saw all those cases coming back up, what happened was very clear to us that all those children had suffering all that time because the cases we saw were severe,” Fordney said.

A major sign of child abuse is changes in behavior, and often times it looks similar to depression.

“We are a very reactionary culture, we think that the way to prevent something is by intervening ... but we can’t intervene our way out of child abuse, intervention is not prevention, so the child abuse is still happening, it’s just not being reported,” said Allan Stockellburg, executive director of Parent Aid in Tucson.

As the school year comes to an end, more children will not be around mandatory abuse reporters, such as teachers and counselors.

“We are all invested in this work whether or not we want to believe it or not, and prevention can start with all of us, it doesn’t need to be a professional who’s going to get involved in a family’s life, it just takes somebody to give somebody a pat on the back and say keep trying or you’re doing great,” Stockellburg said.

If you are concerned about potential child abuse in your community, you can call the Arizona Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD.

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