Reports of child abuse in Iowa have dropped dramatically in recent months, but advocates for children say it’s no cause for celebration, as a drop in calls doesn’t mean a drop in incidents.

Brooke Hendrickx, the spokeswoman for the Quad Cities Child Abuse Council, says the pandemic and back-to-school policies are affecting children at risk of abuse and neglect.  “Calls with reports of child abuse were down over 50% across the state,” Hendrickx says. “That was a little scary because we knew that child abuse hadn’t decreased by 50%. If anything, it had probably increased due to the increased risk in homes.”

Teachers, coaches, clergy, and others who are required to report child abuse and neglect lost access to children in mid-March when schools and child care centers closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Still, Hendrickx says they’re finding ways to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic.

“With that adaptation comes certain measure that can be put in place to check in on kids,” Hendrickx says. “You’re seeing that with a lot of the schools’ ‘Return to Learn’ plans. Even families who chose the 100% remote learning, there’s weekly video check-ins with those kids.”

Hendrickx says only the “Child Protection Center” in Muscatine remains open to conduct medical examinations and forensic interviews for children affected by abuse or neglect. Without access to grandparents and other adults, she says many parents call the Quad Cities Child Abuse Council to ask about changes in their kids’ behavior.

“That increased stress and that increased isolation all increase the risk of child abuse,” Hendrickx says. “We just need to continue to look out for one another, to check in on our neighbors and our friends.” The local Child Abuse Council created Facebook groups for parents to connect with each other, while Hendrickx says client groups meet virtually to give moms and dads a chance to talk to someone besides their kids.

Learn more at or by calling the national hotline, 800-4-A-CHILD.

(By Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island)