Child mistreatment reports drop in Washington amid pandemic

The figures suggest that some student abuse is going undetected while kids are away from teachers.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Washington state agency that investigates child abuse said it has received 59% fewer reports of misconduct per week this school year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Department of Children, Youth, and Families also said it had received 87% fewer calls from concerned mandatory reporters on average per week at the end of the last school year, the Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

The figures suggest that a large amount of student mistreatment is going undetected, the Times reported. Officials and experts have warned that kids are likely to experience more harm during the pandemic, not less.

Many families have faced financial issues and personal loss as a result of the pandemic. Parents might also be more prone to substance abuse issues and detriments to their mental health, the Times reported.

“There may even be an increase in underlying severe abuse that we will see as families become more visible to reporters,” said Vickie Ybarra, director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability at the state agency. “The economic pieces of this is what’s going to drive the most severe outcomes for children and families.”

The state agency said it received about half as many reports in April 2020 as it did in April 2019.

Reports from other mandatory reporters in law enforcement and medical health professionals had also dropped when the pandemic first began. But reports from these sectors have since increased to levels more in line with pre-pandemic figures.

“It just shows what you can detect via online settings compared to being in in-person settings,” said Emiko Tajima, associate professor of social work at the University of Washington and executive director of Partners for Our Children. “Not seeing kids, not having the privacy that teachers normally have with students … is a factor.”

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