By Olivia Parsons

WSPA 7 News

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GREENVILLE – The Department of Social Services says reports of child abuse are rising as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Officials attribute the uptick to children being back in school, therefore more eyes on the them now than in the last year.

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Data from the Department of Social Services reported a 53-percent drop in calls reporting abuse and neglect in children, the last week of March into early April of 2020.

“For the week ending March 8, 2021, we had a total of 1,939 calls that came into our D.S.S hub. And of those, 1,550, were child protective services calls,” Director of Communications and External Affairs for D.S.S., Connelly-Anne Ragley said.

That’s a 134-percent increase in calls right around the same time period a year later.

Ragley said it’s because now kids aren’t cooped up in the house as much, which means more eyes to intervene.

“Having children back in the classroom has definitely seen an increase in reports of abuse and neglect,” said Ragley.

She said the department has launched a 24-hour, 7-days a week hotline in response to the pandemic that the public can use to make reporting easier. The department can’t intervene without someone speaking up.

Amanda Whittle is the State Child Advocate and state director for the Department of Children’s Advocacy in South Carolina.

She said it’s more than just reporting, it’s about knowing which preventative steps to take.

“We can do that by providing information to people about protective factors,” Whittle said. “Sometimes those protective factors are just as simple as a smile and encouragement, removing stigma from asking for help to try to build parental resiliency.”

“So often we assume the worst, and sometimes it’s not always bad,” Children’s Trust of South Carolina CEO Sue Williams said. “But it’s always good to check. So if you see something, say something. Ideally, it’s say something before things get difficult.”

Children’s Trust is partnering with the Department of Social Services to advocate for Child Abuse Prevention Month throughout April.

“Our goal is to keep kids from getting to DSS’ front door, essentially by working with families, working with communities,” Williams said.

She said this can be done through evidence-based programs, resources, care, and ultimately — supporting families.

“Because we as a society, and a community, are better when the children are better,” said Williams.

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