NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee brought attention to National Child Abuse Prevention Month during his daily COVID-19 press briefing, urging Tennesseans to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
Lee's "Safer-at-Home" order is keeping families home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, but for some children home isn't the best environment.
“Another collateral side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is domestic abuse, particularly child abuse, in our state. As schools and many childcare centers are closed and children are outside of the structured environment they are normally in, I want to remind everyone that each of us is a mandatory reporter of suspected child abuse. I encourage all Tennesseans to be vigilant, to be engaged, to be certain that during this time of crisis we don’t add additional damage and that children are safe and protected,” Gov. Lee said.
Officials say higher levels of stress due to self-isolation, combined with many adults suddenly working from home or facing unemployment, could potentially lead to an increase in the number of children being physically or sexually abused or neglected.
“This is a real concern. We normally receive many reports of child abuse and neglect from teachers, childcare workers, and medical professionals – all people who see children on a regular basis," said Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols." With families staying home to due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools and childcare centers closed, there are fewer eyes on this vulnerable population."
The number of calls handled by the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline decreased nearly 19 percent in March 2020 compared to March 2019, falling from 9,934 one year ago to 8,070 this past month.
DCS encouraged everyone to be vigilant and call the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline (1-877-237-0004) to make reports. Citizens can also report child abuse online at https://apps.tn.gov/carat/.