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Child Protection Leaders Ask for Public's Help
10:28AM / Thursday, May 07, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Child protection leaders are asking the public's help in detecting ongoing child abuse while the COVID-19 shutdowns keep kids away from the adults who normally step in to help.

Reports of child abuse have plummeted, even as family stress factors like job insecurity, food insecurity and sickness have disproportionately increased in March and April. Mandated reporters for child abuse include teachers, medical providers, therapists, and clergy. None of those groups are having in-person interaction with children during the state of emergency. 

The heads of the Massachusetts Children's Alliance, Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) and Children's League of Massachusetts are issuing an unprecedented joint call to the general public for help detecting possible abuse and alerting officials who can intervene to protect those children.

Whether it is neighbors seeing kids outside at play, out in public with adults, or relatives and teachers interacting with them via Zoom or other video exchange, anyone having contact with children is urged to look for these signs: 

• Physical appearance: signs of bruises, marks, injuries, hygiene, or attire.

• Environment: signs of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or family dysfunction.

• Behavior and affect: change in mood or presentation, distress, or outcries of abuse.

• Engagement: changes in participation, interaction, and communication.

• Supervision: access to a responsible adult and their level of involvement.

A child experiencing abuse may show these signs. You should notify the Department of Children and Families if you suspect abuse by calling the DCF Child-At-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200. Reports can be anonymous if necessary.

A report does not automatically trigger a child being removed from a home or a parent being in trouble; few reports result in either of those outcomes. The most common outcome is supplying services and supports to families that need them. 

Massachusetts has a comprehensive, trauma-informed system of response to child abuse allegations through the state's 12 Children's Advocacy Centers. DCF has a staff of well-trained, well-supervised, and dedicated social workers who screen reports to see what – if any – intervention or support services a child and family might need.

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