MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and departments across the state are reporting fewer cases of child abuse since the COVID-19 stay-home orders.
A look at the numbers doesn’t indicate what might be happening according to Sarah Welliver with the Department of Children and Family Services.
“The fact that schools are closed, that community programs are closed, it means that these children are less visible to the community around them due to social distancing. It is one of the main reasons we are seeing our calls drop compared to previous years and to last month,” she said.
A 2020 graph from the Department of Children Family Services shows 239 intake calls for child abuse on Monday, March 2nd. The cases gradually decline to 100 on March 31st.
While reports to DCFS have dropped, it’s alarming at the same time.
“Understandably right now with COVID-19, everyone is a little stressed, particularly those vulnerable populations we deal with. Who may have mental health concerns, financial concerns, unemployment, substance abuse disorders, when you combine that in a situation like this we do have a very deep concern right now for children in our communities and families who may be hurting,” Welliver added.
ABC4 News asked Provo Police what they are seeing in their city.
In March of 2019, 14 child abuse cases were reported to the department, this year only five.
“Ultimately we want to encourage people to just be patient with each other. Try to work things out,” said Provo Police Sgt. Nisha King.
That’s because Sgt. King’s department is keeping an eye on the rise of custodial interference.
In some cases, it turns into a domestic violence case.
“Understand when domestic violence is happening in the presence of children, that is child abuse. It is harmful to kids, it doesn’t matter how young they are,” said Jenn Oxborrow with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
She continues to tell ABC4’s Jason Nguyen, “There is a high correlation there. So usually if someone is being violent or aggressive to a spouse, they are defiantly being violent or aggressive towards the children or they’re having a negative effect on those children because they are witnessing the abuse between their parents or the adults in their house.”
Oxborrow believes a lot of the calls for help are coming into organizations like theirs.
“We are seeing our call volume and our request for services go up in our programs by 50-60 percent. And we are hearing from our law enforcement partners across the state that they are seeing anywhere from a 30-40 percent increase in domestic violence calls,” she said.
If you’re experiencing or witnessing any form of child abuse officials say use the Safe UT app, direct messaging through digital learning tools at schools or a private message with law enforcement.
Welliver says DCFS is still going to have caseworkers check on child abuse claims and law enforcement says they will make a wellness check on anyone as long as they have report including names, addresses, and a phone number.