“Teachers and administrators are often the first ones to see the signs of abuse, and with schools closed, we must remain vigilant about this problem and work to remedy it,” Kemp said.
There were 122 reports of suspected child abuse the first day schools were closed, according to DFCS data. A week prior, there were 292 reports made.
There were 12,427 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in March. That’s down from 15,062 in February and 16,764 in March 2019.
Being in close quarters at home can increase the chances of abuse, experts say.
“We have been told by one Atlanta-area hospital that they are seeing a 15 percent increase in domestic violence cases in their facility,” Kemp said. “This is disturbing and cannot be tolerated.”
Rawlings said he supports the steps being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as closing schools and sheltering in place, but is aware the measures can put pressure on families.
“Being isolated from friends, family, and routine activities during this time can be stressful on families, and we know all families need supportive social networks to break through the harmful effects of isolation,” Rawlings said. “As we practice social-distancing, we need to be mindful to stay engaged.”
Rawlings is encouraging the public to keep an eye on the children in their circles.
“Communities that support parents and take collective responsibility for the welfare of children are the best prevention for child maltreatment,” he said.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call 855-422-4453. Those seeking help related to domestic abuse can call 800-334-2836.