DCFS sees drop in calls because of coronavirus, but it doesn't mean abuse has stopped

Posted at 10:52 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 13:26:10-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Division of Child and Family Services is reporting a decline in calls of abuse and neglect since the coronavirus pandemic began.

However, the agency does not believe that means abuse or neglect cases are declining.

"With fewer suspected cases being reported to our hotline we are concerned the decline isn't an accurate picture of what's going on. Reality is incidents of abuse are more likely on the rise due to additional strains on families (financial, unemployment, etc.)," division spokeswoman Sarah Welliver said in an email.

Community programs, schools and other places where people might normally see visible signs of abuse and neglect are shuttered, so reporting is not as strong as it once was.

DCFS case-workers must still do physical visits and inspections of homes. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have to get a little more creative. They don face masks, wear gloves and use hand sanitizer. Sometimes, interviews are conducted with a window between the two sides.

"We have the ability to use technology," said Stacy Esplin, a child protective services supervisor with DCFS. "We're also trying to maintain that human connection. Because we know that these families are now being quarantined into their homes, and we want to get a complete picture of exactly what's going on."

In a video chat interview with FOX 13, Esplin said human contact can often show that DCFS is available to help. Support systems are still available, despite the pandemic. The agency said cases have not stopped as a result of the coronavirus.

"We do have people that are here to answer phones," she said of help for people in need.

The agency's hotline is 1-855-323-DCFS (3237).

For more information on resources for those who may be victimized by abuse and neglect, click here.