Child abuse reports fall amid COVID-19 in Chattanooga, but that doesn't mean it's not happening

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing schools and most child care centers, there are fewer eyes on children - fewer eyes to spot suspected abuse and fewer eyes to report it.

The number of calls handled by the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline decreased nearly 19% during March this year compared to March 2019, falling from 9,934 to 8,070.

Locally, the drop is more drastic within the city of Chattanooga, 21%, than in the county, where there's been a 7% drop.

That doesn't mean less abuse is happening. It may just be going behind closed doors.

Higher levels of stress brought on by shelter-in-place orders and many parents either working from home or facing unemployment could lead to an increase in the number of children being physically or sexually abused or neglected, according to Department of Children's Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols.