VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach Police is concerned about children being abused and neglected in the community.
Police said new numbers highlight a concerning trend. They said there has been a decrease in the number of referrals they've made to Child Protective Services.
Police Sergeant William Frederick is a supervisor for the Virginia Beach Police Department's Domestic Violence and Missing Persons Unit.
Recently, while analyzing the departments statistics he noticed a huge drop in the number of referrals to Child Protection Services from police.
“I looked at the numbers for January and February when schools in session compared to March and April when it was not, and the decrease was alarming,” said Frederick.
In 2019 between March and April, there were 188 referrals for CPS from Virginia Beach Police, but this year in the same period there were just nine.
“What’s concerning to us is just because the state is under the 'stay at home' order from Governor Northam, it doesn’t mean that the child abuse and child neglect that is occurring has also decreased. It’s just that the children are not in a position where they can confide in an adult that they can trust,” said Frederick.
Teachers, counselors and other jobs require by law that they report suspected child abuse and neglect – but the kids have been out of school for weeks. Police believe the kids are not being exposed to people who could potentially help them or report abuse.
“It’s very concerning from social services standpoint,” said Marqueta Walker, Program Manager for CPS in Virginia Beach. “We know that the abuse is still occurring. We know that child abuse and neglect hasn’t just simply stopped because of the decrease so it makes us very concerned.”
She said she is also concerned about the surge of cases they will receive once the mandatory "stay at home" order has been lifted.
According to the CDC:
Child abuse and neglect are common. At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate. In 2018, nearly 1,770 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States.
Children living in poverty experience more abuse and neglect. Rates of child abuse and neglect are 5 times higher for children in families with low socio-economic status compared to children in families with higher socio-economic status.
Child maltreatment is costly. In the United States, the total lifetime economic burden associated with child abuse and neglect was approximately $428 billion in 2015. This economic burden rivals the cost of other high profile public health problems, such as stroke and type 2 diabetes.
“We want to help the kids as much as possible, but we need the communities help,” said Frederick.
They said call authorities if you see signs of abuse in your neighborhood.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say kids may feel guilty, ashamed or confused and can be fearful of their abuser. Warning signs include bruises, scratches, lack of supervision or wearing dirty clothes.
They say you could notice changes in behavior such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity and to look for signs of depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence.
“Don’t try to figure out if there’s enough information to contact CPS,” said Walker, “If you think somethings off please call and we will go through our assessment process to determine whether a response is needed. If you think something is wrong or off just call.”
1,770 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC.
To contact the Virginia Beach CPS Hotline during normal business hours, call 757-385-3400.
To contact the hotline after hours, call 1-800-552-7096.