Counties receive fewer reports of child abuse amid coronavirus, but staff say it’s not because of fewer incidents – Twin Cities
Local counties are seeing a new trend in child abuse cases amid the spread of the coronavirus: the number of reports is declining.
But that’s not good news, say county staff and child safety advocates.
With the closure of schools and the suspension of youth organizations and activities, the number of staff who regularly see children and look after their well-being are largely out of service at the moment. At the very least, they interact much less with children.
That means it’s much more difficult to spot signs of abuse and report it, said Marcia Milliken, executive director of the Minnesota Children’s Alliance.
“The kids aren’t in school right now, they’re not going to after-school programs or worship services… So the places where kids are seen and where they feel safe to disclose are just not there. not available, ”said Milliken.
‘EXTREMELY CONCERNED FOR CHILDREN RIGHT NOW’
And parents are more stressed these days. Many juggle the full-time workload while providing non-stop childcare and even home schooling as families stay indoors, Milliken said.
In other cases, parents have lost their jobs and face increasing financial stress.
This combination makes children more vulnerable to abuse and neglect these days, not less, said Milliken, adding that she was “extremely worried about children at this time.”
She added that and she and her staff expect to see “huge increases” in reports of child abuse once children return to school and youth activities.
Fewer cases seen in April
Ramsey County is among counties on track to see a significant drop in child abuse cases since Governor Tim Walz ordered schools to close in March, according to data provided by a county spokesperson .
The county looked at 231 cases in total last month, for example, but only had 61 cases in April on Tuesday.
Washington County cases have gone from about 131 cases in March and April 2019 to 82 cases expected in March and April of this year, county staff said.
Sarah Amundson, division director of the county’s child welfare department, said the numbers involved guesswork as April was only halfway through. Additionally, Washington’s figures include only family investigations and assessments, not all of the county’s child welfare cases.
Hennepin County has also seen dramatic declines, according to figures provided by a county spokesperson. Officials there detected 700 cases there last month, up from 186 as of April 13 this month. Dakota County also saw a decrease, but not as significant.
PROTECTION OFFICERS STILL MAKING HOME VISITS
Ramsey County Social Services Director Anne Barry pointed out that while far fewer commissioned reporters interact with children, some still do, including law enforcement and medical personnel, who often see the most egregious cases of child abuse.
Kim Cleminson, director of Ramsey’s division of children and family services, added that the county had recently started receiving reports from teachers who interact with students online, as well as from concerned neighbors and residents. who have seen children alone in parks, for example.
County child protection officers continue to make home visits when needed, while taking special precautions, and staff monitoring ongoing cases continue to virtually monitor children and families.
“Our doors are always open and we check in with the kids every day,” Cleminson said.
UNIQUE TIME, UNIQUE STRESSES
Joan Granger-Kopesky, director of child and family services, said this “unique period” caused “unique stress” for everyone, children and parents.
“We all have to find ways to support each other differently than we have been in the past… It’s a strange time right now,” she said.
To that end, Milliken urged all adults to see themselves as critical reporters of abuse right now, including delivery people, neighbors, cashiers, teachers and other adults interacting with children online.
Milliken urges adults to trust their instincts and remember that filing a report is an act of diligence, not an accusation against a parent.
Reports can be made to a child’s local county child welfare agency. A directory of phone numbers for county departments across the state can be found online here.
Adults who believe a child is in immediate danger should call 911.
‘WE ARE NOT ALONE’
Ideally, parents and children in crisis will seek help before the abuse begins. Adults or children who are feeling overwhelmed by the added stress can call or access the Ramsey County Adult Mental Health Services 24-hour crisis line at 651-266-7900. online here. It’s the children’s crisis line at 651-266-7878 or available online here. Staff said calls from both lines are increasing these days.
Alternatively, parents can call the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery hotline at 763-591-0100.
Staff are available 24 hours a day to help parents who feel they have reached their limits and / or need de-escalation or coping strategies, according to the organization’s communications director, Jennifer Harrison. She added that the staff can also help parents find food, shelter and other resources.
One expects these days to feel overwhelmed and anxious, Harrison said.
“There are a lot of people right now who have never experienced anything like this… so it is important to know that we are not alone and that we are together and that the Crisis Nursery is there… to support parents in this trip.