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Child abuse reports slowly rising with return to in-person learning

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 7:48 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - During the lockdowns of the past year, children’s services have received fewer reports of child abuse and neglect. Much of that is likely due to a decrease in reports from educators, who weren’t seeing kids because of distance learning.

Lucas County Children’s Services relies heavily on reports from concerned citizens.

And since teachers spend so much time with children, they’re well-equipped to see the signs, and their reports are essential to catching child abuse and neglect.

“Teachers have the ability to build to build relationships when they see children daily, and when children are away from the situation that they might need to tell you about,” says Donna Seed, director of social services at Lucas County Children’s Services (LCCS).

In April 2020, when schools were first shut down due to COVID, the number of referrals to LCCS dipped drastically. The reports that were missing were those from teachers, who were no longer seeing their students.

But that doesn’t mean no one was looking out for the welfare of local children.

“I know that we were in a pandemic, but I think it’s important to note that our workers never stopped reporting to homes,” says Seed.

As the pandemic wore on, the numbers started climbing again, as law enforcement began to send in more reports from the calls they were receiving.

“I think the pandemic has taught us a lot. We all have struggled with how do we get through it? And our children they have struggled,” says Nicole Williams, manager of the assessments department at LCCS.

Then in October, referrals started pouring in from schools, leading to a spike in calls, even above ordinary, non-pandemic levels. LCCS believes this shows that teachers can see the signs, even through a screen.

Since then, numbers are still below what LCCS usually sees, but they are climbing steadily.

“I expect that when children are fully acclimated back into the school system, numbers will continue to increase,” says Williams.

“One of the things I think we’ve learned in the pandemic is that we can’t do it alone,” says Seed.

To report suspected child abuse, you can use the following numbers:

Lucas County: (419) 213-CARE (2273)

Wood County: 419-354-9669

Statewide Ohio hotline: 855 O-H-CHILD

Lenawee County, MI: (855) 444-3911

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