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Dramatic Drop In Reports Prompts Worries That Children Are Being Neglected, Abused During COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Order

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As we practice social distancing to combat the coronavirus, there was some fear and worry Tuesday night that some children are being neglected – if not abused – during the stay-at-home mandate in the fight against coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has seen a huge drop in calls to its child abuse hotline. As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Tuesday night, the decline signals bigger problems.

The number of calls getting reported to the state about children in troubled homes has dropped 45 percent.

Thus, while the COVID-19 pandemic has people stressed and worried, the workers who deal specifically with children are even more stressed.

The decline in calls does not mean cases are disappearing. The experts insist it shows people who would normally see abused children face to face are not interacting with them.

From March 2 to March 8, there were 6,143 calls to the hotline and 585 online reported cases. From March 9 to March 15, there were 6,051 calls and 621 online reports.

But last week, when the COVID-19 outbreak kicked in, the state said it saw a 45 percent drop in calls.

From Monday to Sunday, there were only 3,454 calls and only 221 online complaints reported about child abuse.

At a time when everyone is staying indoors, experts with the Illinois Court-Appointed Special Advocates say it becomes harder to detect the abuse.

"Now we're telling people to keep their kids inside were telling grandparents don't come near the kids. We are basically doing everything for public safety but needing to remind the public there's a population we're trying to protect but we're not protecting them of negative consequences of the pandemic," said Court-Appointed Special Advocate James McIntyre.

McIntyre continued: "It makes me worry that were going to miss cases. We're could potentially see more children die of child abuse. If this last as long as the experts are saying where, it could go into the summer, we're going to be playing catching up and it will be a child abuse and neglect pandemic."

Since social workers are not coming onto homes, CASA, which covers Cook, DuPage, Will, Kane, and Lake counties, is in need of volunteers to help monitor children who are abused or neglected.

They are offering digital training during the pandemic.

But remember, if you suspect a child is getting abused, call the hotline, but at least try checking up on family and neighbors.

Those who deal with the cases say stress drives child abuse, and there is no doubt these are stressful times for guardians.

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