Advocates worry about COVID-19 putting more kids at risk for abuse at home

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OTTAWA — An organization that advocates for the safety of children says reports of child abuse and neglect are down as much as 40 per cent since Canadian schools closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sara Austin, the founder and CEO of Children First Canada, says it is “very worrisome” that reports have dropped substantially in every region, because there is no reason to believe child abuse has diminished.

She says teachers and other authority figures who are part of the safety net for kids are no longer able to keep an eye out for those who might be at risk.

When schools are open, teachers usually account for nearly one-third of all reports of suspected abuse or neglect to child welfare authorities.

Daphne Penrose, the Manitoba advocate for children and youth, says the additional stress on families during the shutdown, along with fewer eyes on kids and less access to services has her fearing many children are suffering.

Advocates are also concerned about a rise in online predators going after kids who are spending more time on the internet right now.