Citing local study, Child Abuse Network CEO is ‘extremely concerned’ COVID-19, related safety orders contributed to increase in incidents

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The leader of the Child Abuse Network said the organization is “extremely concerned” the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shelter-in-place policies could have contributed to an increase in abuse in Oklahoma after a study claimed criminal charges related to those incidents this spring fell roughly 25% short of projections.

The study, published this month in the Child Abuse and Neglect journal, relied on data from the past 10 years of Oklahoma criminal case filings to forecast the number of cases expected from February to June 2020.

The Child Abuse Network said all of those months, with the exception of March, saw “progressively lower” criminal cases filed than what the study’s authors projected.

“As an organization which serves our most vulnerable population, the Child Abuse Network has been extremely concerned as ‘shelter-in-place’ orders were enacted and children at risk lost a connection to caring adults outside the home who could report suspected abuse,” Child Abuse Network President and CEO Maura Guten said in a news release about the report’s findings.

She went on to claim that, “Instead of being ‘safer at home,’ helpless children were trapped in an unsafe environment aggravated by the stress and economic instability inflicted by the pandemic. All indicators show the pandemic has led to a child abuse epidemic.”

The report is from a research team from OSU Center for Health Sciences, as well as from pediatricians and researchers at OU-Tulsa School of Community Medicine who specialize in working with abuse and neglect cases.

The study is based on publicly available court filings “pertaining to child abuse and neglect” from Jan. 1, 2010, to June 30, 2020. Researchers then created autoregressive integrated moving average, or ARIMA, algorithms with that data to forecast trends in criminal charges for February to June 2020.

According to the Child Abuse Network, the report’s authors contend shelter-at-home orders resulted in children being seen less frequently by caring adults who do not live with them.

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