MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The head of the Department of Children and Family Services is worried victims of child abuse and domestic violence are not getting the help they need.

In the case of children, with schools shut down, they are interacting less with teachers.

“This is one of the things I’m worried about, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell told CBS Miami. “You know, every summer when the kids go home from school, our calls to the hotline drop pretty steeply. And that’s because our teachers, who are on the frontline working with the kids and see them every day, they’re not there to notice something and make a call into the hotline.

“But now we have it where, we’re all social distancing and we’re not really interacting with one another very much,” he said “And so, you know, right now we’re seeing a thirty-five percent drop in our calls to the child abuse hotline. That’s not a good thing. That’s not a good statistic for us.”

Poppell says they are still able to investigate child abuse claims, even with the pandemic gripping the state.

“Our investigators are still going to see that child,” he said. “There’s different criteria in statute. But it’s either a four hour response time or a 24 hour response time. We are still getting there on time. Our [Child Protection Investigators] have been – I’m going to use the word brave – very brave. We’ve got them PPE. They’re going in homes. And you can imagine, you know, how they’re anxious as well about contracting or giving or passing it along the virus to other folks. So, we’ve got PPE for our folks. We’re still doing the in-home visits.”

Poppell said they are having comparable concerns when it comes to domestic violence.

“It’s similar to the child abuse situation,” he said. “Our calls to the Florida domestic violence hotline are down. And it’s another one of those trends we’re concerned with.”

One of the reason why domestic violence calls are down, he explained, is that an abused wife or a girlfriend are often stuck at home during the shelter in place order. There is also fear that they would have nowhere to go, if they did try to leave. Poppell said they do have domestic violence shelters where people can be placed.

“Folks are starting to get stressed out, particularly if your financial outlook has taken a hit and you’ve been inside a home and can’t really go anywhere right now,” he said. “We just need folks to pay attention. We are having less interactions with one another. But if you have somebody in your family or some friend and you know, they’re stressed out and they’ve had issues in the past, call in and check up on them.”

Jim DeFede

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