COVID-19 has become a worldwide pandemic impacting child protection services (CPSs) in many countries. With quarantine and social distancing restrictions, school closures, and recreational venues suspended or providing reduced access, the social safety net for violence prevention has been disrupted significantly. Impacts include the concerns of underreporting and increased risk of child abuse and neglect, as well as challenges in operating CPSs and keeping their workforce safe.
The current discussion paper explored the impact of COVID-19 on child maltreatment reports and CPS responses by comparing countries using available population data.
Information was gathered from researchers in eight countries, including contextual information about the country’s demographics and economic situation, key elements of the CPS, and the CPS response to COVID-19. Where available, information about other factors affecting children was also collected. These data informed a discussion about between-country similarities and differences.
COVID-19 had significant impact on the operation of every CPS, whether in high- income or low-income countries. Most systems encountered some degree of service disruption or change. Risk factors for children appeared to increase while there were often substantial deficits in CPS responses, and in most countries there was at a temporary decrease in CM reports despite the increased risks to children.
The initial data presented and discussed among the international teams pointed to the way COVID-19 has hampered CPS responses and the protection of children more generally in most jurisdictions, highlighting that children appear to have been at greater risk for maltreatment during COVID-19.