ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The shutdown has caused a domino effect, leading to fewer child abuse cases getting reported, CBS4 has learned. That's because there are fewer eyes on children right now, since they're staying at home for school and aren't attending any after-school activities.
Brittany Noble, the Community Development and Prevention Consultant with Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, says there's been a drop in child abuse hotline calls statewide since the shutdown.
"With people being more isolated, for longer periods of time, we know that abuse and neglect kind of thrive in secrecy, and shame, and it's a lot easier for that to occur as time goes on when families are isolated," Noble said.
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, so Noble said she hopes community members will take this time to make sure they are looking out for the kids in their lives.
"If you have friends, family members, neighbors with kids, you should be checking in with them to say, 'how can I support you?' We're also checking in with our school partners, to let them know what are we looking for now that we've moved to this online world," Noble said.
The Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman, Stephanie Villafuerte, has also seen a drop in child abuse reporting across the country.
"We are right now, as an agency, working with a number of stakeholder partners, to try to figure out, how do we make all citizens keep their eyes and ears open for abuse and neglect?" Villafuerte said. "What we do want is to make sure that kids and families that are already at risk, that are already under significant stressors, that they get the support that they need."
Villafuerte said getting that critical support to at-risk families means case workers are still having face-to-face meetings with families, and they're still checking up in-person on reported abuse cases.
Those meetings could leave case workers at risk to contract or spread COVID-19 as they work to keep Colorado's kids safe. So, Villafuerte says they've been getting creative to protect their workers, buying masks from local seamstresses and sanitizers from local distilleries.
"If you keep case workers safe, you're going to keep children and families safe," Villafuerte said.
If you see signs of child abuse, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-844-CO-4-Kids. You can also click here to learn more about how to report suspected abuse.
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