GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Reports of child abuse has fallen, most likely because mandatory reporters aren’t seeing kids in person, experts say. They are using Child Abuse Prevention Month this April to encourage people to watch for signs that something is wrong.
Reports of child abuse have declined 21.4% in Michigan over the last year. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation – Kids Count Data Center, in 2019, there were 2,662 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect in Kent County. In 2020, that number dropped to 1,933.
Mary Muliett, president and CEO of D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s, says teachers and educators are the top reporters of abuse and neglect. The prevalence of online and virtual school has caused reports to drop.
“With my 23 years in this field, I have concerns that we have parents and caregivers who, just like you and I, are struggling with the restrictions and being at home and feeling that fatigue of the pandemic,” Muliett said. “I have to imagine that abuse and or neglect is heightened concern, that kids at home are maybe not safe.”
She said neighbors and community members can help by being aware.
“If you see a child that seems like they’re lacking supervision out in your community, they seem hungry, they’re looking for food, they’re maybe even stealing food, and seem to have inappropriate attire for the weather or maybe poor hygiene, those are all indicators we know,” Muliett said.
She added unexplained bruises and welts may also indicate abuse. Kids acting out or acting inappropriately toward other children can also be signs.
Experts are bracing for an increase of child abuse and neglect reports when restrictions lift. People are encouraged to report any suspected abuse or neglect.
If you want to report abuse or neglect, the number to call is 855.444.3911.