New data shows child abuse reporting dropped amid COVID-related school closures

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - in a situation that’s causing alarm for Hawaii child welfare advocates, the state agency with a duty to protect abused children has released new data that shows a drop in reports from educators as kids attended class remotely.

The state Department of Human Services said educator-reported child abuse cases fell to zero in April, amid school closures. But the data also showed that neighbors and relatives ― who started working from home ― reported more cases during that same time period.

For the last three years, Child Welfare Services has tracked child abuse reports based on the occupation of the person making the report.

In April 2018, educators reported 37 suspected abuse victims. A year later, that number was 41.

But in April 2020, the first full month of the shutdown, no cases came in from school employees.

To compare, neighbors and relatives triggered 16 cases in April 2018. That same month in 2019, the group called in 11. And in April 2020, there were 26 reports, almost double the previous years.

Law enforcement and other mandatory reporters such as medical personnel remained consistent throughout the years, even during the pandemic.

Elladine Olevao, branch administrator of Child Welfare Services, said neighbors, family members and friends have stepped up to protect kids amid the pandemic but vigilance is needed.

She said the data also showed that as COVID restrictions eased, the number of reports also went up, especially from law enforcement.

Olevao added that more people want to remain anonymous when providing information about suspected abuse. “For whatever reason, it could be safety reasons, it could be they might be calling on other family members so that can be uncomfortable.”

Those afraid to call 911 about suspected child abuse can leave detailed information anonymously through these state hotlines:

  • Child Abuse or Neglect Reporting Hotline: 808-832-5300 or (toll free) 1-888-380-3088
  • Child Trafficking Reporting Hotline: 808-832-1999 or (toll free) 1-888-398-1188

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