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Many child abuse cases may be going unreported due to the pandemic

When the pandemic first started, the number of abuse cases reported dropped significantly in Madison County.

The pandemic has made child abuse much harder to spot.

Because of the pandemic, kids are now separated from their teachers and doctors. These people are often the ones who notice and report abuse.

National Children's Advocacy Center Clinical Director, Erica Hochberger, said when the pandemic first started, the number of cases reported dropped significantly.

"It's getting a little bit better now because even kids that are doing all of their school work at home, a lot of it is virtual and so there is somebody interacting with them and checking on them," said Hochberger.

Even if teachers actively check in, kids sometimes only feel comfortable talking to their peers. With limited connection to their friends, kids can easily get stuck in abusive situations.

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Not only are cases going unreported, a recent study found job loss during the pandemic puts kids at a higher risk of child abuse.

Obstacles like job loss and financial hardships can lead to family violence.

"We also have families where they've kind of burned through their cushion, their emergency savings and maybe their work is looking different than it did before," said Hochberger. "There's just a lot of feeling like this is going on for a long time and its depleting their resources."

Substance abuse is linked to child neglect, and abusing drugs and alcohol has become an even bigger problem during the pandemic.

Hochberger said, "Just the length of this pandemic and not knowing what is going to happen next and when is there going to be relief can really tax anybody's coping skills."

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If you're overwhelmed and feel that you may be at the end of your rope, Hochberger says to reach out to a friend or therapist for help.

The National Children's Advocacy Center offers parenting classes to parents in Madison County. The six-week long parenting classes start every two months throughout the year. To sign up, call 256-327-3765.

If you see something that appears to be a sign of child abuse, you can take action. Hochberger says to report the case to DHR or your local police department.

Hochberger advises against trying to investigate a child abuse case yourself and says to leave it to the professionals.

To report child abuse, call Madison County DHR at 256-427-6200 or call Alabama DHR at 334-242-9500.

For more information about reporting child abuse, click here.

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