School districts in Tennessee and across the nation have announced their closure for weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In Tennessee, many school districts will remain closed until mid or late April as families, businesses and cities work to help prevent the spread of the viral pneumonia.
Unfortunately, for too many students across the state, the additional time spent at home puts them at an increased risk of becoming victims of abuse. The Tennessee Department of Children Services has reported a drop in calls to it’s child abuse hotline due to fewer reports being made by school counselors and teachers. For some students, school is their safe place.
Here’s what you can do to help those you fear they may be victims of child abuse or neglect;
Know the law. If you have witnessed abuse of a child or youth, state law mandates anyone older than 18-years-old report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect to authorities.
Report abuse. Report child abuse or suspicion of child abuse to the Tennessee Department of Children Services by calling 877-237-0004 or online. Reporting abuse or suspicion of abuse will allow case managers the opportunity to connect with the family and understand what services and resources DCS can offer to support that family. Those who contact DCS remain anonymous and do not have to know every detail to make a report. If you believe it is a life-threatening emergency call 911.
Check in. In times like this it’s especially important to check on friends, family and neighbors and make reports if necessary. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, you can learn more on the Children’s Bureau’s website.