Reports of suspected child abuse in L.A. County have taken a nose-dive in recent weeks. That news may sound incredible during normal times, but in a COVID-19 world, that drop has advocates very concerned. According to a statement by DCFS Director Bobby Cagle, since the middle of March, L.A. County has seen a 40%-60% decrease in the number of suspected child abuse reports from the public.
Numbers like these leave child advocates feeling uneasy. People who are mandated to report suspected child abuse, like teachers, cannot flag what they do not see when kids are out of school. These children are out of sight, and that’s very frightening. DCFS usually sees a large increase in the number of reports after kids come back from summer break, which is something expected to happen when children start to return to school. The increase could be more striking than they have seen historically. In order to brace for the possible escalation of cases, the agency is recruiting additional foster families who can step in under those circumstances.
Meanwhile, advocates are worried about how the coronavirus is affecting current foster families. Older foster youth who are now providing for themselves are also feeling the effects of a faltering economy, as many have been laid off. Situations like this can really send these children into a difficult situation where they don’t have a safe place to live and are not able to meet their very basic needs like food.
Nonprofits that provide housing, mental health therapy, legal assistance and other services for abused kids are struggling amidst the crisis, with fundraising events cancelled and other donations dwindling. Yet despite all the challenges they are faced with, there are still doing what they can. Social workers are still responding to emergency calls and going into the community. Attorneys and judges are working together to hold some hearings virtually. And volunteers are working with nonprofits to get iPad’s and laptops to foster kids who need them to keep up with their schoolwork.
On April 13th, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $42 million in funding for children who are at greater risk for abuse or neglect because of the pandemic. This funding includes almost seven million dollars for social worker overtime and additional outreach and nearly two million to extend foster care payments for the roughly 200 youth who age out of the system every month.
IF YOU SUSPECT CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT:
LA County Child Protection Hotline: 1-(800) 540-4000
Childhelp National Abuse Hotline: 1-(800) 422-4453