April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a campaign to empower individuals to prevent child abuse and neglect across the nation. Per a recent article on NJ.com, March has seen a 32% reduction in calls to report child abuse and neglect to New Jersey’s State Central Registry (SCR), the child abuse hotline, compared to March 2019 numbers. Other states are reporting similar decreases.
However, though we want to see a reduction in child abuse, this drop in reporting is not necessarily a positive sign. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven people all over the globe indoors, self-isolating to stay safe from the virus, but it has also broken connections to necessary supports and oversights that may prevent potential child abuse cases. DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer warns, “March is traditionally one of our highest reporting months… The reduction doesn’t necessarily mean that children are experiencing less abuse and neglect, but rather it’s not being seen or heard. And so no response is being taken. It’s not being reported.”
At the beginning of the month, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched its Work to End Child Abuse and Neglect, or #WeCan campaign, distributing engaging digital tools to inform New Jersey residents of the resources available to prevent child abuse. Given the stress and anxiety that sheltering at home can cause, the #WeCan campaign has come at an opportune time to encourage everyone to stay safe, healthy and connected.
The DCF website provides helpful digital resources for managing anxiety, stress and offers free supports for people in crisis. ACNJ has compiled resources as well, including links to websites with free reading and educational materials, as well as virtual tour websites and other activities to share with children. The more that families feel supported, the less likely that child abuse and neglect will occur.
The #WeCan campaign uses the slogan, “Social distancing does not mean social isolation.” Check in with other family members and neighbors. The power of the internet makes this possible to do in more ways than ever before, including different social media platforms and even video conferences to see friends and family across the state. Even a simple phone call to talk through a problem may help divert a tragedy. Sharing resources offered by DCF, ACNJ and other advocacy groups can promote healthy mental outcomes and can even strengthen family ties.
For more information on the #WeCan campaign, visit the DCF Facebook page at facebook.com/NewJerseyDCF. In New Jersey, any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or acts of abuse should immediately call the (SCR) at 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873) (TTY 1-800-835-5510). If the child is in immediate danger, individuals should call 911 as well as the hotline.