I-Team: Child abuse going unreported during COVID-19 pandemic

I-Team

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Child abuse reports are down in Clark County. While this may sound like good news, it’s not.

Child welfare professionals worry children are still being abused, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re not getting the help they need.

The I-Team has reported on several child abuse cases. It’s signs like bruises or malnourishment that prompt people like teachers, obligated by law to report abuse, to call Child Protect Services or police.

But with restrictions still in place and schools closed since March, less child abuse is being reported.

“If nobody is there to notice this, the extra bruise or that the child has been withdrawn or something’s going on, then the truth is that nobody is reporting those,” said Christina Vela, CEO of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City.

The ranch helps child abuse victims.

“Teachers often times are, you know, a huge source of reporting, especially, of course, they’re mandated reporters,” explained Vela. “But you know, they have relationships with children, and they can, you know, kids tell people that they trust sometimes things that are going on.”

The numbers reveal less hotline calls, less referrals and less investigations.

In January, there were more than 4,000 hotline calls. There was a steady decline, dropping to more than 2,700 calls in April. An increase was reported in May when Nevada started to reopen.

When comparing calls from April and May in 2020 and 2019, you’ll see about a thousand less calls each month.

“What we know is that, although we’re in a pandemic, the epidemic of domestic violence and child abuse is still rampant,” Vela lamented.

She says unemployment and the ending of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures are added stresses, and she is expecting a spike in reported cases when children are back in the classroom.

“For those of us that sort of felt ‘stuck at home,’ you know, how grateful and lucky are we to have a safe home to be in, because that is not the case for everybody across this community, and truthfully, across the country.”

So, how can you help?

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, report it at 833-803-1183 or click here.

Vela says many nonprofits are struggling right now, and donations are always appreciated, whether it’s at St. Jude’s or another charity of your choice. To donate to St. Jude’s, click here.

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