The small flags carry a moving message.
The PA Family Support Alliance planted 4,865 blue ribbon flags to indicate the number of legitimate child abuse and neglect reported to Pennsylvania authorities in 2019.
Members of the alliance, an advocacy group for children, also set 51 black flags in memory of the children who died in 2019 as a result of abuse and neglect. The government figures for 2020 are still being finalized.
Doctors and lawyers for children have said they are concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable children.
Proponents and experts say reports of child abuse and neglect have decreased over the past year because many children were absent from school as districts switched to distance learning. Because many sports and extracurricular activities are also scrapped, many children are more isolated and not seen by people who would discover abuse.
According to early data from the Pennsylvania Human Services Department, the state saw a 16% decrease in reports of abuse and neglect in 2020 year over year. More serious reports that fit the definition of abuse were down 22% year over year.
- Child abuse reports have decreased sharply in Pennsylvania, and experts are concerned
Many children are not viewed as regular by hired reporters who are legally required to report suspected abuse, said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the PA Family Support Alliance.
“The best way to prevent child abuse is with good, strong positive parenting,” Liddle said. “For the children who don’t have that, it’s the assigned reporters. They hope they have a chance to spot signs of abuse. “
Doctors told PennLive that children who come to emergency rooms are more likely to suffer more serious injuries and are more likely to be hospitalized.
Experts have said a number of factors make children more vulnerable. Some have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic and are under financial pressure. And with daycare closed, some parents who are not usually the primary caregiver are spending more time with children and the pressures are easing, which often has tragic consequences, doctors and lawyers said.
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