Reports of abuse don’t dip through pandemic

Wayne stands out among commonwealth counties

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/28/21

HONESDALE, PA — It seems April is the month for having difficult but necessary conversations. A couple of weeks ago, the Wayne County Commissioners heard from the county’s Victim …

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Reports of abuse don’t dip through pandemic

Wayne stands out among commonwealth counties

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — It seems April is the month for having difficult but necessary conversations. A couple of weeks ago, the Wayne County Commissioners heard from the county’s Victim Intervention Program, marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At their last meeting, they heard from county employees who work to protect the area’s youth in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The year 2020 was a trying one for children and youth agencies throughout the commonwealth, according to Rozalyn Burke, Wayne’s Children & Youth Services (CYS) director. With school closed for much of the year, separating children from mandated reporters who know what warning signs to look for, CYS groups throughout Pennsylvania felt a sharp drop in calls reporting suspected child abuse or neglect. The lack of calls doesn’t mean that child abuse isn’t happening. It means that abuse and neglect are going unnoticed, Burke said.

One year ago, Burke talked to River Reporter about experiencing this initial downturn in phone calls, but at the recent commissioners meeting, she said that, fortunately, things soon picked up in Wayne County, and her team continued receiving regular reports from community members throughout the year.

“We received 158 reports of child abuse [in 2020], and of those, we were able to substantiate 20,” Burke said. “Our reports remained the same; in 2019 we received 156 reports of child abuse. So I think that’s important to highlight, because our community—even though we were social distancing, schools were shut down—people were still calling in and reporting suspected abuse.”

She noted that other counties saw call numbers drop through the height of the pandemic and commended the community for not allowing that to happen in Wayne. Burke also acknowledged the difficult work that her department’s caseworkers do and mentioned that they work with a trauma therapist on more challenging cases.

“Secondary trauma is real and we recognize that in our office, and we ensure that we protect our workers as they also endure the trauma that the children have experienced,” she said.

Burke was joined by District Attorney A.G. Howell and Stephanie Bryant, who runs the county’s abuse unit.

“It is such a daunting task to prevent child abuse,” Howell said. “I think we’re blessed to have a community that cares to step forward to keep our children safe, from parents, to friends, to relatives, to neighbors, to just this morning I was talking to school administrators and teachers about suspected child abuse.”

Howell also noted that the county has begun working in partnership with the Dickson House Children’s Advocacy Center in Pike County, providing another opportunity to remove children from potentially abusive situations, as officials investigate suspected child abuse.

People who suspect a child is being abused or neglected can call the Pennsylvania hotline 800/932-0313 or visit www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov for resources and to make electronic tips.

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