Reports of child abuse in Ohio, West Virginia decline during pandemic
It’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, and abuse reports are down both in West Virgina and Ohio.
However, that’s not necessarily good news.
On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state’s reports of child abuse are down nearly 50 percent from March 22, and he speculated that it's because of the state’s stay-at-hme order.
“Some of our best reporters are school teachers, and now of course with kids not in physical buildings, there’s not the opportunity for other eyes outside of the home to look at that child,” said DeWine.
Teachers and other school staff are mandatory reporters, meaning they're required by law to report an abuse if they see it.
In West Virginia, the reported cases are also down, though our source in children's services could not give us an exact figure.
Wood County School officials have concerns about child abuse while the coronavirus pandemic is going on.
“With school not in session, I would expect reporting would be down simply because they’re not in school. I do have a concern that due to the fact that people are stressed right now, I would be concerned that abuse may be up in the homes,” said Cathy Grewe.
Belpre Superintendent Jeff Greenley expressed a similar concern.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in the state because students aren’t with us and we aren’t able to see them and examine them as closely as we normally would be able, compounded by the fact that there’s a lot of stress on families right now,” said Greenley.
Grewe says school counselors have been reaching out to students who they believe to be especially at risk during this time and Greenley says Belpre staff have had limited interaction with students.
“We are grateful to have the chance to interact with our kiddos over Zoom and to see our students through their work and our bus drivers are checking in with kids when they pick up lunches everyday,” said Greenley.
Children's services workers say neighbors, family members and adults outside the child’s home can be help by reporting.
“Children still have relatives, so relatives can be checking in on their grandchildren, their nieces and nephews. Taking care of each other that way. Neighbors see and hear things, neighbors can kind of keep an eye out, on each other,” said Grewe.
A children's services worker says you don’t necessarily have to know for sure that abuse is happening to report. Reporting suspected abuse allows the proper authorities, like DHHR, to investigate. No reporter’s name is ever released.
Signs of abuse include unusual bruising, constant dirtiness, an unusual amount of time without supervision, and being inappropriately dressed for the weather.
To report a suspected abuse, you can call the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources at 1-800-352-6513 or the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services at 855-642-4453.