Child abuse advocates fear lack of in-person school could lead to spike in abuse

As New Jersey school districts decide whether to reopen for in-person or remote lessons, those who are trained to step in when child abuse occurs say that they are preparing for a spike in cases.

News 12 Staff

Aug 12, 2020, 9:58 PM

Updated 1,351 days ago

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As New Jersey school districts decide whether to reopen for in-person or remote lessons, those who are trained to step in when child abuse occurs say that they are preparing for a spike in cases.
“I’ve been worried since March 23 of what is happening both with domestic violence and child abuse in these homes because there’s so much isolation,” says Caryn Hirsch, director of children and family services at Catholic Charities.
The organization in Mercer and Burlington counties has been preparing for months for an uptick in child abuse referrals. They say that since children have been at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, they are away from the most common mandated reporters of child abuse – their teachers.
“We do know that a fair number of children actually report the abuse to someone in the school,” says Hirsch. “The kids need a trusted adult outside the home. So, they may have a trusted adult inside the home who is unable to protect them, because they can’t protect themselves.”
Schools in New Jersey will have the option for fully remote learning this fall. Hirsch says that this may keep some children in homes with their abusers even longer. She says that being seen in school or out in public is one of the key factors in identifying abuse.
“As soon as you cut off children from being able to be seen – so, a lot of the children don’t have access to video, so sometimes you’re doing it on the phone or it’s all virtual, it’s just paper for them. Unfortunately, the isolation increases and therefore both the severity of the abuse and the access to the potential victim increases dramatically,” Hirsch says.
Hirsch urges anyone to speak up, even anonymously.
“I don’t expect anyone in the community to know what’s going on behind someone else’s closed doors, but if there’s any suspicious, anyone can call,” she says.
New Jersey’s child abuse hotline is 1-877 NJ ABUSE (652-2873).


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