Officials believe child abuse unreported as numbers go down

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Reports of child abuse are down steeply in Philadelphia, since the city’s stay-at-home order, but no one in the child welfare system believes that abuse has declined during the pandemic, and the decrease in calls is causing concern.

During the last week of March, Philadelphia’s child abuse hotline received some 43 reports a day of suspected child abuse. During the same week,last year, the hotline received 103 reports a day. 

Deputy Human Services Commissioner Sam Harrison says, even at best, the department suspects underreporting.

“There is no formula or algorithm to determine the true amount of child abuse that is occurring in the city but I don’t think less reports means there are less incidents of child abuse,” Harrison said. 

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Harrison says most reports come from “mandated reporters” which include teachers, child care and medical providers. 

With schools closed and families sheltering in place, Harrison says officials are counting on the community more than ever.

“Even under normal circumstances, the community is a vital partner in this work. In the midst of these challenging times, it’s important that parents know they have folks to turn to: neighbors, community organizations, family members places of worship.

Harrison says investigators are essential employees who are continuing to do their work as the virus spreads.

To report suspected abuse or neglect of a child, you can call the hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 215-683-6100. 

You can also call the state hotline at (800) 932-0313.

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