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March 2021Vol. 22, No. 3Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and the Response to It During COVID-19

COVID-19 has created circumstances that have increased many families' stress levels, such as stay-at-home orders; job loss; or other health, economic, or social stressors. There is also a concern that children being home from school diminishes their exposure to adults who might detect and report maltreatment and there will be a spike in reports once they return to school. A Chapin Hall issue brief used data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System, and other sources to analyze trends and respond to concerns of a surge in maltreatment reports that could overwhelm the child welfare system once children and youth return to school full time.

Based on monthly maltreatment report data from 2018, the researchers determined that hotline reports from education personnel typically return to their typical levels each fall when children return to school rather than increase to higher than typical levels. They also acknowledge, though, that there is a higher risk of child maltreatment during the pandemic and that additional community-based concrete supports may be needed. The data analyzed in this report led to the creation of the Latent Event Simulator—a tool that can be used to help plan system responses.

The issue brief also includes recommendations for adaptive system changes, including the following:

  • Refine child maltreatment categories to distinguish and address poverty-related neglect from child endangerment or abuse.
  • Broaden the array of community-based supports and partner with families directly.
  • Leverage technology to improve access to needed services and supports.
  • Create alternative pathways to enhance the ways in which mandated reporters can support families.
  • Expand the responsibility for child and family well-being beyond the child welfare system.

Read the Chapin Hall issue brief, COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and Response, to learn more.