Bivona official warns of possible increase in child abuse cases during outbreak

Mar 20, 2020

Schools have been closed since Monday. On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that all non-essential travel be put to a halt, and for employees to work from home with the exemption of healthcare workers and others whose work is deemed essential. That includes Monroe County's Child Protective Services.

Deborah Rosen is the executive director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center.
Credit photo provided by Deborah Rosen

Deputy Monroe County Executive Corinda Crossdale says that so far there are no indications that child abuse and exploitation are increasing as social distancing requires families to stay home.

"We have no indication that abuse has increased due to COVID-19," Crossdale says. "We're not seeing any spike in any referrals to that effect."

Deb Rosen from Bivona Child Advocacy Center says she's not surprised by this, but that doesn't mean abuse isn't happening. That's because without school and childcare, children do not have the same access to mandated reporters, the people who are obligated to report possible child abuse.

"We have some real concern that children who were already vulnerable within abusive households are now both vulnerable and isolated," Rosen says.

What Rosen does expect is reports to increase after children return to school and childcare. For now she says, the people who could help the most are mental health counselors working with children through teletherapy.

Both CPS and Bivona are continuing to offer services, with protocols in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Crossdale says if county CPS workers come across someone that has COVID-19 symptoms, they have a plan in place.

"We're asking our caseworkers, do not enter the home, to go back in their car." Crossdale says. "They'll get in touch with their principals and we'll work in collaboration with the Department of Health on getting those safety assessments completed."

Bivona Child Advocacy Center works closely with CPS. Rosen says their emergency cases are still being processed as usual, while non-urgent cases are being postponed by two weeks. She adds that CPS, however, continues to pursue all calls that come through the state register.

Rosen believes this is a dangerous time for many children in the community because social distancing can result in social isolation in an abusive home. This pandemic, she says, is an example of the kind of family and community stress that can put children at significant risk of abuse and exploitation. She advises anyone with children in their lives to be vigilant during this outbreak.

"And really to be listening carefully to what that child has to say, to that child's demeanor, and to be aware of potential threats to that child's safety," Rosen says.

The New York State Central Registry continues to accept calls regarding suspected cases of child abuse.