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NH Child Abuse Calls Drop 50% Because of School Closures

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu ordered public schools to close temporarily and switch to remote learning on March 15 in response to COVID-19. (Gabriele Lässer/Pixabay)
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu ordered public schools to close temporarily and switch to remote learning on March 15 in response to COVID-19. (Gabriele Lässer/Pixabay)
April 9, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. -- Child abuse reports to the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families hotline have decreased by about half since schools closed in mid-March.

This is because many calls to the division come from teachers, child advocates say.

Moira O'Neill is the director of the Office of the Child Advocate, which oversees the division. She notes that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month -- and New Hampshire neighbors need to keep a special eye out for children during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"In New Hampshire, we have universal mandated reporters," O'Neill explains. "That means we are all required by law to report any suspected abuse or neglect."

New Hampshire is one of about 18 states that requires all people to report suspicions of abuse or neglect.

O'Neill recommends visiting the website knowandtell.org, run by the Granite State Children's Alliance. It gives advice on what to look out for.

If you suspect there might be child abuse, call the division at 1-800-894-5533.

O'Neill emphasizes that you don't need to be sure about a neglect case to call, and that the division follows up with families primarily to figure out how to support them better.

While it can be difficult to identify child abuse, one of the strongest ways to prevent it is to support families feeling stressed.

"When people are in distress, if someone just even notices them and notices their distress, sometimes that's an opportunity for a way out," O'Neill states. "So, 'Hey, you look like you're really having a tough time. You know that there's a lot of help available if you call 211 info line.' "

Also, a new "warm line" from the nonprofit group Waypoint started this week to support families feeling overwhelmed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Any New Hampshire resident can reach 1-800-640-6486 Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. One-hour calls with relevant professionals will be scheduled the following day.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH