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Child abuse reports fall during COVID but actual cases are feared to be rising

DES MOINES — While reports of child abuse in Iowa fell dramatically a year ago, advocates fear the number of incidents where children were harmed actually spiked while the number of reports lagged.

Alli Moerman, spokeswoman for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, explains how that can happen.  “Early in the pandemic, we saw reports of child abuse drop pretty significantly,” Moerman says. “We speculate that this is primarily due to students not being in school and out of the eyesight of many mandatory reporters who would specifically be making a lot of those reports.”

As Iowa students started to go back to school, she says there was another shift. “What we saw as the year went on last year was that as children and students resumed their normal activities and we went into summer and fall, those child abuse reports returned closer to a normal rate,” Moerman says. “From what we know about how COVID has impacted families is that it has definitely increased the risk factors for child abuse.” Those factors include housing instability, food insecurity and simply more everyday stress.

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa is in the midst of a statewide awareness campaign. “There’s a lot of things going on throughout the state,” Moerman says. “There are child abuse prevention councils in nearly every Iowa county that are coordinating events to support families in the local area, everything from fairs to fundraising events to gardens that are planted around the community that help raise awareness of child abuse prevention.”

The organization is inviting those who work with child abuse prevention to a virtual conference, scheduled for May 3rd through the 5th. Learn more at


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