CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As students prepare to head back to school in-person full time soon, experts are anticipating a surge in reports of child abuse.
To prepare for this possibility, agencies are looking for more people willing to be foster parents.
Chris Tompkins, who serves as a recruiter for DePaul Community Resources, says reports of child abuse have been down in Charlottesville, but doesn’t mean the issue went away overnight.
“We are concerned about the idea that these numbers have been decreasing for the last year,” he said. “Will there be another wave of children entering care or an increase once we see kids go back to in-person education, back to things like primary care physician appointments?”
Tompkins says, after a year of mostly virtual learning, the number of kids in foster care and reports of abuse dropped.
“Here in the Charlottesville DSS and Albemarle County DSS, the two most local agencies, we’ve seen a 9% decrease and a 21% decrease with those two agencies,” he said.
He says this is likely because teachers and school staff have not been in-person to see the physical signs of abuse and file the reports.
“We typically see the most number of child abuse reports come from folks like teachers, administrative assistant school counselor, stuff like that,” Tompkins said. “The sources changed dramatically so that 18% is a combination of a 60% roughly decline from school personnel who have shared those reports.”
Tompkins says they are also concerned about a spike in the seriousness of the reports.
“We’re also seeing increases in severity, we’re seeing more cases of kids across the country that are needing emergency response services that require 24 hour response,” he said. “We’re seeing more incidents of children who are coming back as sort of repeat incidences of suspected child abuse.”
All of this is why DePaul is doubling down to find more foster families soon.
“We need to raise greater awareness, to be able to help recruit and train, and increase the number of families we have available for placement when those referrals come in,” Tompkins said.
If you are interested in learning more about fostering a child in the area, click here.