EL PASO, Texas -- April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year during the coronavirus pandemic, advocates are concerned that child abuse could spike, as kids are home from school and families are forced to stay inside together. Because of this, some advocates fear abuse can fly under the radar. Plus, some advocates fear the stress of unemployment, lost income, homeschooling and being quarantined can be a tipping point for abusers.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reports there were 1,953 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect in the El Paso area in fiscal year 2019.
One area of concern is that kids are no longer going into their classrooms in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Teachers are mandatory reporters, meaning they are required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Now, with schools closed for students, some advocates say that responsibility falls on the entire community.
"If you see something, say something," said Sandy Jackson, the community outreach coordinator of CASA of El Paso. "Make that call because it's better to make that call and have it be nothing than to not make that call and have it be something. Then, all of a sudden, we have a really big story where something's happened to a child that could have been prevented."
If you suspect child abuse or neglect in Texas, you can call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or report online here. To report abuse in New Mexico, you can call 1-855-333-7233.
"Signs of abuse are sometimes well hidden, but sometimes they're far from hidden," Jackson said. "If you feel like something's happening, then it's okay to make that call and let the authorities handle it. If it turns out to be nothing, then it's much much better than it turning out to be something and that call not being made."