Coronavirus: Child abuse reports down, concern high, Winnipeg advocacy group says

A child advocacy centre in Winnipeg is concerned about a dramatic drop in child abuse reports it’s receiving as social distancing measures remain in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

With school, sports and many other children’s activities cancelled, adults who would typically spot signs of child abuse are no longer able to see and report it, according to Christy Dzikowicz, executive director of Snowflake Place for Children and Youth.

“It’s getting very, very quiet and for those of us on the child abuse response front that’s a really significant worry,” Dzikowicz said.

“We’re not going to have teachers and parents and friends of kids calling us to let us know they’re worried about a child.”

Dzikowicz can’t say exactly how much reporting has dropped, but said school reporting makes up about 93 per cent of the reports the centre receives.

Now, Dzikowicz is concerned about another group of kids who may have never experienced abuse, but could be at risk because their families might be under extra stress and stuck indoors.

“Everybody is kind of getting on each other’s nerves and in times like this we do start to see an increase in domestic violence in struggling families and child abuse is going to be a consequence of that as well,” she said.

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“We’re likely going to be dealing with a fairly significant spike in reporting and have a whole response that we need to prepare for.”

Dzikowicz is encouraging teachers and other adults who work with kids to check in with them virtually.

“It’s a reminder to all those folks that do have those opportunities in those appropriate channels to take the time to connect with kids if they can,” she said.

Dzikowicz said kids should also know they can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

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