Child abuse cases down in Houston, but here's why experts say that's a bad sign

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The number of reported child abuse cases in Texas is still down compared to this time last year, but officials said the numbers are likely to increase as social distancing guidelines become more relaxed.

"Children are probably going to be going back to school. They're going to be going to camp or have more contact with the outside world, and typically in the past, that's when we have seen an increase in the reporting of child abuse," said Estella Olguin, a spokesperson for Harris County Protective Services.

Aside from police, she said educators and doctors typically report abuse and neglect the most, followed by family, friends and case workers.

"One thing that we have seen, is the number of current reported cases has gone down. Unfortunately, what we know is that COVID-19 did not stop child abuse," Olguin said. "The children are suffering in isolation."

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), there were around 23,000 calls made to the Texas Abuse Hotline in April compared to 31,000 calls made in April 2019. In March, around 27,000 calls were made to report abuse compared to 28,000 calls made in March 2019.

"It's definitely a concern when those people who are trained to see those changes and see any type of clues of anything going on aren't able to see those children," said Tiffani Butler, a spokesperson for Texas DFPS.

She recommends that adults stay vigilant when checking in on children and their parents and pay attention to changes in behavior.

"Even if they're just calling to check up on the family, they can ask to talk to the children. I know a lot of people are FaceTiming with their family. They can asked to see the children and ask how they're doing," Butler said. "If you definitely noticed that they're kind of withdrawn or definitely if you notice any bruises, you definitely want to report it."

You can report abuse by calling 1-800-252-5400 or visiting txabusehotline.org.

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