HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Schools being closed is not just raising concern about the academic health of children, but many are now worrying about their physical well being.
Teachers, administrators, and school staff are mandated reporters and the first line of defense against child abuse and neglect. Now, that defense is gone.
School’s out, children are home, and fewer people are watching to make sure kids are alright.
“Mandated reporters make the highest number of reports and they’re not seeing children right now,” says Angela Liddle of PA Family Support Alliance.
ChildLine is an abuse reporting hotline which typically receives 18,000 calls a month.
That figure has dropped 50% and not because abuse and neglect have been cut in half. In fact, experts say, the opposite is probably true in our shelter in place state.
“Imagine if you’re not used to parenting 24 hours a day and suddenly you have food insecurity, look at the lines of people picking up food,” Liddle said. “It doesn’t take much for a parent to snap. It’s a hard time for everyone.”
State Representative Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) has set up a task force and says elected officials and school staff need to engage.
“Since the school districts have food that they are dispersing in the community, they do have the ability to see families and they know who those red flag families are and they’re able to keep a watch out on families,” Toohil said.
She says mandated reporters have the power to follow up on cases they’ve previously reported. Toohil has previously criticized the governor for shuttering school days before Easter weekend, which she thought was premature.
“Maybe the end of June there would have been weeks they were able to make-up and those teachers would have eyes on those children and more contact with the kids,” Toohil said.
If you are a parent and are struggling, there are resources to help and you can access them through the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance’s website here.