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DIGGING DEEPER: Child abuse cases drop drastically during pandemic

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Authorities saw the number of child abuse cases drop drastically at the beginning of the pandemic.

But experts said child abuse didn't disappear and got worse.

They also said, it's been a terrifying ordeal for some children not being able to go to school, being cooped inside their house with parents.

These parents could have lost their job or be abusing drugs and alcohol.

"In his words, his stepdad tried to break him. He had visible marks on his neck because what the stepfather had done he had tried to strangle him," Marie Fordham, Children's Advocacy Center executive director said about a three-year-old boy who recently was put in their care. "We see the worst of the worst."

Tucson Police Department reported from March to October of 2019 to the same span of 2020 showed they had 52 less reports of child abuse.

Time FrameReports
March - October 2019848
March - October 2020796
Data from Tucson Police Department

Pima County Sheriff's Department showed there were less cases of child abuse reported in 2019.

Time FrameReports
2019211
2020243
Data from Pima County Sheriff's Department

The most severe cases ended up at the Children's Advocacy Center.

The people who work there know how traumatize these children are.

They have created an environment where children can feel at ease and talk to therapists about what happened.

"We're here to help children and their families," Fordham said. "We provide a safe and compassionate and healing environment we want everyone to know you have the right to be safe and we're here to help you."

Just as they helped Clare Hine and her family.

Hine took her child to the Advocacy Center in 2018 after her husband picked up the child from a babysitter.

"She physically abused my child," Hine said.

She said her child's back was covered in bruises.

The center helped her 3-year-old in so many ways.

"I can't say enough amazing things about Natalia and how grateful I am for her patience, kindness," she said. "She is exceptional."

Fordham says CAC is not the only agency who saw the same trend.

She said the Department of Child Safety experienced the same.

"It took until from August to September. They are starting the see the normal number of reports they would expect, which is good because, during that time, there weren't very many reports," she said. "A greater percentage of them were criminal contact. A greater percentage were higher priority cases."

Hine added, "The system is so overwhelmed and the children are the ones who are suffering and it just breaks my heart."

The center also helped her to learn how to parent a child who has been abused. The center guided her family through the process.

She said her child is doing remarkably well.

If you see child abuse or if you are a victim of child abuse, you are urged to report it. We have three phone numbers for you to call 9-1-1 or DCS at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445).

The warmline at the Children's Advocacy Center was set up especially for children. It can be reached at 520-771-2039.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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