Advocates and teachers turn to technology to recognize and prevent child abuse

March 25, 2021

CHARLESTON, S.C. April 24, 2020 – Officials say the coronavirus pandemic has put children at a higher risk for abuse. However, school districts and child advocacy centers are finding new ways to keep kids safe.

Reports of child abuse are down nearly forty percent in South Carolina compared to last year.

Unfortunately, that does not mean abuse is actually down.

Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center officials said family and home dynamics have dramatically shifted because of the COVID crisis.

“You have social isolation. You have a lot of stressors for care givers,” Executive Director Carole Swiecicki said. “Things like unexpected homeschooling. Sometimes children with behavior problems can add to the frustration level in the home, concerns about illness, concerns about finances.”

Officials fear many child abuse cases are flying under the radar now because kids are not in school.

“Our teachers are their eyes and ears, so there’s been a lot going on, the stress in families, that hasn’t been able to be reported,” SC’s Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said.

Teachers, counselors and bus drivers are considered mandatory reporters.

“We’re charged with doing our best to keep our students safe whether it’s in the brick and mortar or rather it’s through virtual school counseling,” Berkeley County School Counseling Coordinator Monica Harvin said.

Officials are really worried about the children they have not heard from since schools closed in March.

“We have had some reports of that nature, and we’ve had the school social workers go out and make contact to make sure the students are, in fact, safe,” Harvin said

Technology may prove to be a valuable resource to keep kids safe though.

“We’ve talked about getting messaging out to teens, so that they have an avenue to tell an adult. And now we’re actually doing more in that area,” Swiecicki said. “It could be that when this is said and done we have a better way to reach kids who need a safe adult to tell.”

Officials say those stressors caused by the coronavirus pandemic…can also increase rates of domestic violence and emotional trauma for children and their parents.

Officials said the stressors caused by the coronavirus pandemic have also increased rates of domestic violence and emotional trauma.

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