“We are mandated by law to investigate reports of abuse and neglect,” said Chris Hemphling, DFCS’ deputy division director and general counsel. “And even during a worldwide pandemic, abuse and neglect doesn’t stop.”
DFCS officials declined to say how many of its 7,000 employees have had to visit homes to do their jobs.
The division began practicing social distancing on Saturday, and as of Wednesday, 587 cases of suspected abuse and neglect have been reported and assigned to caseworkers.
Rawlings said he was concerned about a drop in reports of suspected abuse. There were 972 reported cases during the same time period the previous week.
Workers who must go into the field are taking steps to ensure their safety.
“When we get a hotline call for a suspected case of child abuse or neglect, we ask if anyone in the home is ill,” Rawlings said. “We’re going out, but we (collect information) while maintaining that 6-foot distance between our workers and the family to the extent that’s possible.”
The federal government approved the use of video conferencing for things such as routine meetings with caseworkers or to allow children in foster care to communicate with their parents.
A global pandemic and possible financial strain could put additional pressure on a parent who is prone to abuse.
“Because students are out of school and many of these after-school programs have been canceled, children’s neighbors take up that role a bit more,” Rawlings said. “If people do see something that doesn’t look right, we really want to ask them to please follow up with us.”
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call 855-422-4453.