Child abuse victims may be especially vulnerable during COVID-19 crisis, advocates fear

Organizations are reporting lower numbers of child abuse cases during the coronavirus pandemic, but they say that doesn't mean it's not happening.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many are staying home to stay safe from the coronavirus, but that may not be a safe haven for children who may be victims of child abuse.

Esther Franco with the Fresno Council on Child Abuse says the number of cases being reported is dangerously low; however, it could be happening more than ever before due to the pandemic.

"We know child maltreatment is occurring, but it's not being reported," says Franco.

"Let's say the parents are facing poverty, are now losing their jobs. That's going to increase stress, that's a trigger for physical abuse," says Franco.

Denise Wyatt with The Family Healing Center says they work with police departments to provide interviews with child abuse victims.

Lately, the calls haven't been coming in as often.

"We had about 10 to 15 in April as opposed to 30 to 35 calls," said Wyatt.

Advocates with Valley Children's Hospital say a big reason for the drop in calls is simply that kids aren't in school and around mandated reporters, like teachers.

Action News reached out to the Fresno Unified School District.

A spokesperson said they have a team of social workers that respond to reports or requests for wellness checks and that the district is doing home visits for high-needs families.

Advocates are trying to get the word out and let people know what could be happening behind closed doors.

The numbers remain a mystery but advocates ask that if you see something, report it to police.

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