|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
As vice-chair of the Children and Youth Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I am reminding everyone it is critical that we help protect children from abuse and neglect during the current COVID-19 public health emergency by being more vigilant.
According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, child abuse reports plummeted by 40-50% when schools closed last spring, and reports were down 10-12% this summer compared to last year, likely due to cancellation of sports, camps and other activities for children.
With many schools starting up online only or under a hybrid model of online and in-person instruction, people are encouraged to look out for signs of potential abuse or neglect such as numerous and/or unexplained injuries or bruises; chronic, pronounced anxiety and expressed feelings of inadequacy; flinching or an avoidance to being touched; poor impulse control;
demonstrating abusive behavior or talk; cruelty to animals or others; and fear of a parent or caregiver, among others.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please report it to the 24-hour ChildLine hotline at 1-800-932-0313. Learn more about the signs of potential abuse at www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov
Parents and families who are struggling to cope during this time of crisis are encouraged to call Pennsylvania’s new Support and Referral Helpline, which is operated 24/7 by skilled caseworkers who can provide emotional support during this difficult period. The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
Another helpful resource is the 2-1-1 hotline operated by the United Way, which can connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis.
Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office