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Child Abuse Hotline Volume Up During Pandemic

Caller type shifted during pandemic, including increase in text reports from children

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Calls and text messages to a child abuse hotline increased in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a research letter published online May 3 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Robin Ortiz, M.D., from University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues used restricted-access data from Childhelp to assess the volume of calls and texts to a national child abuse hotline during the pandemic compared to the prior year.

The researchers found that from March to May in 2019 and 2020 combined, Childhelp received 35,480 call and text inquiries, mostly from female individuals (74.63 percent) and adults (≥18 years, 92.97 percent). The vast majority of callers were adults (96 percent), while most texters were younger (<18 years). In 2020, there was a 13.75 percent increase in the total number of inquiries versus 2019. There was also a shift in caller type during the pandemic, with a decrease in calls from school reporters (teachers, school personnel, and daycare personnel), a smaller decrease from non-school-based mandated reporters (child protective services workers, counselors, foster care providers, health care workers, and authorities), and an increase in calls from neighbors or landlords, relatives, and friends.

“Our findings suggest that text-based access to hotlines or agencies may be an effective strategy while exposure to mandated reporters, particularly school personnel, remains limited,” the authors write.

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