GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The beginning of the 2022-23 school year saw the expected uptick in child abuse case referrals, with children being back in an environment surrounded by trained abuse spotters, but the referrals seen in the first month add to the peak of the largest number of case referrals in the past four years.
The Family Justice Center in Greensboro reported 338 cases of child abuse/neglect since January and expected the numbers to be 20 to 25 percent higher at the end of the year.
“One of the things we often say here at the Family Justice Center is violence breeds behind closed doors,” Greensboro Sgt. Dale Nix said.
2019 – 210 cases
2020 – 256 cases
2021 – 325 cases
2022 – 338 cases *YTD
Within the first month of the school year, there were 20 case referrals for abuse to some degree.
Nix said most of the cases revolve around discipline.
“Each case is different. You have to gauge: is this an improper discipline situation or an abuse situation,” he explained.
The increase is linked back to intense efforts to collaborate with other entities to better identify abuse/neglect and to find long-term solutions for adults.
Those include “putting parents in parenting classes” and asking the “court system to try and mandate and utilize some of these parent training courses.”
Just because more referrals have come in, is not a sign that there are more children being abused.
Law enforcement get more referrals because of a change in statewide referrals laws in 2020. This requires child abuse referrals to go to both Child Protective Services and local law enforcement.
Nix explained this has driven those referral numbers.
Most of the cases investigated are discipline-related, but five percent to 10 percent are severe enough that could result in the child being hurt or killed.
Schools in the city and county have reinforced the importance of teachers taking note if a child is out for consistent periods of time.
“Those are usually the ones that are missed by the school,” Nix said. “Not because the school isn’t looking. It’s because the parent or the offender who is involved in that significant abuse is not going to let that child go to school. Teachers and counselors are looking at chronic truant students to make sure there’s not abuse going on in the home.”