An Associated Press analysis of state data found that child abuse reports, investigations, substantiated allegations and interventions have dropped at a staggering rate, increasing risks for the most vulnerable of families in the U.S. The analysis found more than 400,000 fewer child welfare concerns reported during the pandemic and 200,000 fewer child abuse and neglect investigations and assessments compared with the same time period of 2019. That represents a national total decrease of 18 percent in both total reports and investigations.
In the wake of nationwide school closures, teachers and school personnel who are normally the top reporters of child abuse were left effectively sidelined during the height of the pandemic. child abuse and neglect reports from school sources fell sharply during the pandemic as the U.S. pivoted to online learning — by 59 percent. AP’s analysis suggests officials may be dealing with more severe cases of child abuse in several states, based on an assessment of priority response times, families that have previously been involved with CPS, and deaths and serious injuries. For example, although Maryland investigated far fewer child abuse reports during the pandemic, the state saw about 1,500 more reports involving prior victims than in March through September the previous year. Nebraska, which also had significantly fewer child abuse and neglect reports during the pandemic, had dozens more investigations that required a 24-hour response — assigned to the most urgent priority cases — than in 2019. Experts aren’t sure how the loss in child abuse reports during the pandemic can or will be recovered.