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Steep Drop In Long Island Child Protective Services Reports Pinned To Remote Learning

Eric E. Castro

Educators and other mandated reporters of child abuse attribute a decline in Child Protective Services reports in 2020 to fewer children being in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Protective Services reports of abuse and neglect on Long Island dropped last year 18.5% in Nassau County — 7,947 in 2019 to 6,473 in 2020 — and 11.2% in Suffolk County — 8,825 in 2019 to 7,831 in 2020, according to CPS data obtained by Newsday. State law requires that certain professionals, such as school officials and childcare workers, report suspected child abuse and maltreatment to CPS.

Reports spiked in October after children began to settle into the school year with more students in school full-time or participating in hybrid learning.

Keith Scott, the director of education at Long Island’s Safe Center, a non-profit that supports victims family violence and sexual abuse and houses Nassau County’s child advocate, said the cases of abuse his organization deals with has been nearly cut in half — from 473 from 2019 to 278 in 2020.

Scott said these statistics can be misleading at first glance.

“Just because we are seeing the reports go the other way does not mean the abuse stopped, just that they are not being noticed because most interactions with children are occurring through Zoom or other virtual platforms,” Scott said.

A study, which analyzed the first three months of the pandemic and its impact on the reporting of child maltreatment in New York City, found that the decrease of children's interactions with mandated reporters could have caused an estimated 7,783 cases underreported in the city and over a quarter million cases underreported nationwide.

The study also suggests that factors that lead to parents abusing their child, including economic uncertainty and stress, could have led to an increase in abuse throughout the first few months not seen in the statistics.