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'Not all kids are safe at home' | Advocates aim to curb child abuse as schools go virtual

"We know abuse isn’t stopping. Some of the cases that are being reported are some of the most horrific I’ve seen in 15 years in this field."

ST. LOUIS — Virtual learning will be the new form of education for some students when they head back to school.

RELATED: Here's why these school districts chose to start the year 100% online

But the reality is not every student is safe behind closed doors.

Amy Robins is a supervisor of forensic services with the Child Center.

"Not all kids are safe at home," she said.

She said usually there's an uptick of abuse cases when students go back to school. That's because teachers are able to spot the signs since they are mandated reporters.

Robins said that right now there's a 30% decrease in hotline calls for child abuse cases.

RELATED: Drastic drop in child abuse calls could mean cases are going unreported during COVID-19 pandemic

"We know abuse isn’t stopping," she said. "Some of the cases that are being reported are some of the most horrific I’ve seen in 15 years in this field. Those who can and advocate for kids aren’t in their lives and aren’t seeing them on a regular basis. They aren’t in the classroom, sports are limited, they aren’t going to doctor or dentist visits as scheduled."

Safe Connections CEO Susan Kidder said their advocacy center is working on this issue with St. Louis city and county schools.

That way certain signs can be detected, even through a screen. One tip is to look out for behavior changes.

"The child seems anxious, depressed, or withdrawn. Sudden changes in behavior or school performance," Kidder said

Robins suggests teachers can do more individual check-ins with the students and parents, virtually. 

Dr. Ken Haller is the former board president of the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and says pediatricians also work hand in hand with schools.

"As a pediatrician, our profession works very closely with school counselors with teachers with school administrators for the welfare of children," he said. "We also look out for signs and neglect."

We're told it's crucial to continue visits with pediatricians. That way another person is added to the list when it comes to mandated reporters.

RELATED: Pediatricians urge parents to schedule back-to-school physicals

While not everyone is a mandated reporter, Robins said that we can all have a voice and speak up if we see something.

WAYS TO REPORT IF YOU SUSPECT ABUSE OR NEGLECT:

  • Missouri's Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-392-3738
  • Safe Connections Hotline: 314-531-2003
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453

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