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New Ways to Report Child Abuse and Neglect Launched Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

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Mary Louise Madigan: (216) 698-2521; mlmadigan@cuyahogacounty.us 
Deonna Kirkpatrick: (216) 647-2475; Deonna.Kirkpatrick@jfs.ohio.gov 

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH – The Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services launched new ways to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect as a result of increased risk due to COVID-19. Now suspected cases can be reported to the 24-hour Child Abuse hotline via phone, email, website, and Facebook.

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered schools, daycares, libraries, parks and many other places where young people are usually seen and heard, leaving vulnerable children at home, away from teachers, coaches, counselors, or other adults who might ordinarily help or protect them. “Families may have already been struggling due to finances, poor housing, domestic violence or substance abuse,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, DCFS Director. “Now the added stress brought on by the pandemic could push them to a breaking point and increase the risk to children. That’s why we need family members, neighbors and friends to help be our eyes and ears and contact DCFS if they suspect something is wrong.”

Ways to Report
The hotline is staffed 24/7 with professionals who may offer resources to a struggling family or, if necessary, will send a Child Protection Specialist to investigate. Despite the coronavirus, Child Protection Specialists are still working in the community and making home visits when needed to help keep children safe. For more information on the signs of abuse and resources for parents visit our website.

Teachers, counselors, and other school employees often see the first signs of abuse and neglect and learn what’s happening in a family. They are a significant source of calls to the child abuse hotline and help DCFS find out which families need help, which children are at risk, and which children are suffering from abuse.

“We hope this tool will be helpful for teachers who are interacting with students online and suspect something is wrong. They’re sitting at their computer so this might be an easier way for them to reach us,” said Weiskittel. “Also, for children and teens themselves who can’t leave the house or don’t have the privacy to make a phone call, now they can contact us online or through social media to let us know they need help.”