Despite the public health benefits of the “shelter in place” order, there may be a serious repercussion that is happening in silence – violence, including child abuse and neglect, that is not getting reported. Calls to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline are down by more than 50 percent a week, compared to the volume last year. It would be great if this reflected an actual decrease in child maltreatment cases. Unfortunately, we believe cases are happening but our “eyes and ears” are socially distant.
We at Lurie Children’s Protective Services Team are deeply concerned about this unintended consequence of the shelter in place order. As children stay home from school and daycare at this time, they are not around the usual mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, such as school personnel, social workers and child care professionals. This results in a dangerous gap in reporting abuse.
We need your help. You don’t need to be a mandated reporter to report suspected child abuse or neglect. You also don’t need proof that the abuse or neglect has happened to call the DCFS hotline (800.252.2873).
You may witness potential child abuse directly or you might overhear concerning shouting and crying from your neighbors. Please visit our website for tips on how to recognize child abuse and neglect.
Calls to the DCFS hotline can be made 24 hours a day and your identity will remain confidential. These calls are screened by trained social workers to determine if investigation is warranted and what the next steps should be.
Child abuse is everyone’s problem and it is critical that you act on your suspicions of child abuse and neglect. We must come together to protect the children in our communities, especially during this difficult time.