Since COVID-19 began, there has been a decrease in child abuse reports. Reports of child abuse dropped nearly 50% from February to April of 2020. While the reports are decreasing, child abuse is not. Children lack accessibility to safe adults and have no one to confide in if they feel unsafe at home.
Adults that children feel comfortable enough to confide in when feeling unsafe or unsure of situations are called safe adults. These adults, often, are teachers, counselors, family friends, or coaches. Due to the pandemic, children have limited access to their safe adults. “There are new safe adults” says Gina Coslett, Child Forensic Interviewer at Dawson Place. “It is the internet technicians, maintenance workers, etc. that have the ability to walk into the homes. These community members can encounter suspicious activity that the teachers cannot see over Zoom.”
While Zoom is still a fairly new form of communicating for some, it is difficult to tell what a teacher should look out for, other than physical marks on the face, not turning on the camera for the entire session, or a look of exhaustion or discomfort. Without the ability to see the kids up close, teachers can miss body bruises or other telling signs that they might see in a classroom.
It is a community effort to report suspected child maltreatment. “With good faith, it is the right thing to do”, says Gina. Our new safe adults must step in and start looking out for things otherwise gone unseen. One report could save a child’s life. While child abuse is not decreasing, the number of children getting the help they need is.
The importance of community members reporting in good faith is life changing for some children and for the better. The stories that Gina hears in her day to day experiences with children are heart breaking. That is why there is a call to the community to make an effort to work together. Children throughout Snohomish County are going through an adverse experience with increased anxiety and staying at home to protect others.
YOU can stop child abuse. YOU can make the right call at the right time for a child.